After writing a fun and successful cozy mystery series of twelve novels (each tied to one of the months), Jess Lourey shifted gears to write a collection of poignant crime fiction standalones inspired by true crimes that took place in and around her native Minnesota. Unlike many novels which contain true crime origins, Lourey is careful to make sure she is not sensationalizing the events and chooses to center her works on the victims – both those directly affected and those whose lives are altered simply by their proximity to such traumatic criminality – and in doing so, elicits empathy from the reader while successfully telling gripping and original narratives. The Quarry Girls is the latest of these true crime-inspired novels and it just might be Jess Lourey’s best work yet.

St. Cloud Minnesota in the late 1970s has the small-town rural feel parents seek out when looking for a place to raise their families, but some small towns also harbor secrets. Jess Lourey’s depiction of Pantown brings the area to life with all the vivid detail and menacing ambiance needed to keep the reader turning the pages. The town – like its citizens – always seems on the cusp of extinction, with secrets buried deep and danger around each corner.

When her friend Maureen fails to arrive at the party she promised to attend, Heather and her circle of friends all fear the worst, but no one else seems to care. After all, teens run away all the time. But when Heather and Brenda see something – something they can never tell anyone else – the trajectory of their lives are forever altered. As young girls around Pantown continue to go missing, Heather realizes that the safety of her younger sister lies squarely in her hands alone. And when Heather puts her mind to something, she never goes down without a fight.

What happens when children are forced to grow up too fast, when every adult around them fails in their duty to protect and comfort? The coming-of-age story for Heather is one of resilience, self-confidence, and skepticism; but it is also a warning for parents, a beacon to other young girls in distress, and a spotlight on society’s shortcomings.

Like Unspeakable Things and Bloodline, Jess Lourey’s The Quarry Girls is ultimately a morality tale – almost a dark fairy tale except that the plots are rooted in reality and the danger is all-too-real. The sad fact is that there is no shortage of past crimes to prompt Jess Lourey’s creative mind, but readers can rest easy knowing that this author will approach every idea with deep reverence for the victims and a goal of providing a healing and heartfelt journey – for both the characters and their readers – within the pages of some truly exceptional crime fiction.

BUY LINKS: The Quarry Girls by Jess Lourey

Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.