Title: All These Bodies
Author: Kendare Blake
Genres: Historical, Mystery, Thriller, Fantasy
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Review Copy: Received an eARC from the publisher
Availability: Available 21 September 2021
Summary: Summer 1958—a string of murders plagues the Midwest. The victims are found in their cars and in their homes—even in their beds—their bodies drained, but with no blood anywhere.
September 19—the Carlson family is slaughtered in their Minnesota farmhouse, and the case gets its first lead: 15-year-old Marie Catherine Hale is found at the scene. She is covered in blood from head to toe, and at first she’s mistaken for a survivor. But not a drop of the blood is hers.
Michael Jensen, son of the local sheriff, yearns to become a journalist and escape his small-town. He never imagined that the biggest story in the country would fall into his lap, or that he would be pulled into the investigation, when Marie decides that he is the only one she will confess to.
As Marie recounts her version of the story, it falls to Michael to find the truth: What really happened the night that the Carlsons were killed? And how did one girl wind up in the middle of all these bodies?
Review: [This book contains graphic depictions of violence, descriptions of corpses, gun violence, animal death, and domestic violence.]
I very much enjoyed Kendare Blake’s ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD, so when I saw that she had yet another book about a teenage girl covered in blood, I had to get my hands on it. I’m pleased to report that ALL THESE BODIES will be a great read for anyone looking to get into the Halloween mood or for those who enjoy true crime (provided they also don’t mind a touch of the supernatural). The murders in ALL THESE BODIES are (loosely) inspired two different events: the 1958 spree killings by Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, and the 1959 murders of the Clutter family.
Rather than portraying the terrible events in ALL THESE BODIES as an in-the-present-moment true crime narrative or mystery, Blake uses Michael’s first-person narrative to tell us the story after it’s already over. ALL THESE BODIES is Michael’s recounting of events the next year, which means that Blake can do things like tell us outright in chapter one that Marie is the only perpetrator ever caught for the murders. This framing also allows us to question Michael’s story even as he tells it—and as he questions it himself. In one passage halfway through the book, Michael says “I can’t recall if I disliked [character] on sight.…Now, maybe I hate him. So I guess I could have hated him from the start.” Truth, lies, the faulty nature of memory, the stories people latch onto because it fits their current feelings, worldviews, or ambitions—all of that gets explored throughout the novel.
Marie and her story, of course, are central to these themes as well. Her decision to confess only to Michael shapes much of what happens in the book, not only in the actual course of the investigation but also in the shifting attitudes in Black Deer Falls. Marie is keenly aware that after she’s arrested, one of her only avenues of control over her life are in her choices about who to speak to, what to say, and how to say it. Her character is a complicated one, and increasingly so as it becomes clearer precisely what she won’t say. The interactions between Marie and Michael are compelling, especially as Marie opens up more and Michael starts empathizing with her better.
I think what I enjoyed most about ALL THESE BODIES was that it was a story about the stories we use to define ourselves. Many questions are left unanswered in this book, which I think suited the story Blake was telling, though I know that may frustrate some readers. Ultimately, this book hit a lot of themes and narrative devices that I love, and I’m glad I was able to read it on the cusp of autumn.
Recommendation: Get it now if you love true crime/mysteries with a hint of the supernatural. Kendare Blake’s ALL THESE BODIES is an intriguing book about truth and some truly terrible murders. ALL THESE BODIES will leave you questioning what really happened in a good way. This is a great read for people who want to get into the Halloween mood.