Based on a true unsolved crime from 1877, Laurie Glenn Norris’s debut novel tells the story of two small towns linked by the disappearance of a teenage girl. Mary Harney is a dreamy teenager in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia, whose ambitions are stifled by her tyrannical grandmother and alcoholic father. When Mary’s mother becomes ill, an already fragile domestic situation quickly begins to unravel until the September evening when the girl goes missing.
Across the water on Prince Edward Island we meet Gilbert Bell, whose son finds a body washed up on the beach below the family farm. As the community is visited first by the local coroner and then by investigators, Glenn Norris paints a fascinating and darkly comic picture of judicial and forensic procedures of the time. At once tightly plotted and pensive, the novel travels back to the circumstances that led to Mary’s disappearance and then back further to the circumstances of her parents’ marriage, all the while building toward a raucous courtroom finale.