In Search of a Motive – “Her Final Words” by Brianna Labuskes

FBI Special Agent Lucy Thorne is wondering “Why me?” when a teenaged girl confesses to a killing, then clams up and specifically requests that Lucy handle the case. Faced with a credible confession but lacking a motive, Lucy is met with a subtle wall of resistance in the rural community that is dominated by a faith-healer sect. Next stop: the wooded crime scene in search of clues and hopefully, physical evidence, because Eliza Cook refuses to say more or even ask for a lawyer. When the sylvan woodland setting turns grisly with additional bodies, Lucy now has a multitude of unanswered questions. Finding those answers puts Agent Thorne in imminent danger from several sources and she has no backup. Who said small towns are safer than big cities?

“Her Final Words” by Brianna Labuskes has several narrators who deliver over different timelines. It’s a slow starter but if you stick with it, the pacing kicks into high gear and grabs your attention. The multi-tiered plot is tightly woven but getting to the good part took about 30 chapters. That said, the writing is exceptionally good or I wouldn’t have been willing to stay the course. Labuskes’ primary characters are well drawn but I could’ve done with fewer of them. There are so many you almost need a ‘Who’s Who’ to keep track of them all.

This was my choice of one of the Amazon First Reads offerings and it kept me guessing about who the bad guys are and what makes them tick. The sheriff’s laconic mien is off-putting and Agent Thorne isn’t much more forthcoming. Then there are all the backwoods stereotypes, none of whom can be outdone by the mesmerizing faith healer. Navigating multiple narrators and mixed up timelines aside, “Her Final Words” is still a worthwhile read. Four stars.

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