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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

Sins of the Mother, August Norman: A Review

I'm still on a novels-that-revolve-around-mother-daughter-relationships kick lately. This cover and blurb caught my attention, and I was thrilled to be approved.

Caitlin Bergman is a reporter trying to find her ground after the buyout of her paper. When she receives word that her estranged mother has died, she travels to Oregon to identify the body. This turns out to be more complicated than she expects, and as she waits for DNA results to conclusively prove her mother is the dead body, she unearths a layered web of deceit and mystery, centering on a cult, a group of white supremacists, and an accusation of kidnapping. So, let me start by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and if you're wary about picking it up because it's the second in the series, don't be. Unlike other series where you have to start at the beginning to get a solid understanding of a character, Norman does an excellent job of developing Caitlin Bergman without bogging down the narrative with veiled references to the debut. There are some, but you get a complete picture of who she is without needing to rely on previous texts--and I love her. She's smart, tough, and funny; I really appreciated her sarcasm and dark sense of humor. I thrive on sarcasm, and very rarely do I see a character with my own penchant for smart-ass retorts, so if you're like me, the kind of reader who won't be put off by jokes about murders and death, I think you'll love her, too. As for the plot, Norman does a good job of weaving the voices and plot points into a well-paced unraveling mystery. The Daughters of God were an interesting cult focus, the diary entries were delightful, and the subplots of the missing thirteen year old girl and Caitlin's desire to find her biological father's identity were interesting pieces that rounded out the focus of Caitlin and her mother. I've said this before, but books highlighting complex mother/daughter relationships are so important, and Sins of the Mother doesn't shy away from gritty details. Prostitution, drugs, adoption, and a middle-aged narrator who is not married and doesn't have any children--this is not your average MC, which I found refreshing in a genre dominated by suburban housewives, intelligent serial killers, and grumpled detectives trying to save damsels in distress. Overall, Sins of the Mother is a witty, gritty read with heart and punches. I'd recommend to anyone looking for a cultist story without tons of blood and gore or fans of Ozark or The Sinner. Thank you to Crooked Lane and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.


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