For the first seven years of her life, Marisa Moo knew nothing outside of the two room basement space where she, her mother, Rosemary, and two sisters, Jenessa, and Lily, were kept imprisoned by Chet. After they escaped, Marisa changed her name to Claire, and tried to put her past behind. But the media’s continued fascination with “Missy,” as she was nicknamed, made it difficult for her to hide. Whenever her identity was uncovered, the stalkers turned up and she was forced to move.
Settling in Portland, Claire, now a photographer, manages to land assignments with the Portland Post. But her hope for a normal life is brief. Sent to take photographs of a local parade, Claire notices a stuffed penguin sitting in front of a bar, the Four Alarm Brewery. The toy resembles one she had as a child. Could it be? She snaps some photos. Getting back to her car she finds a note. Someone knows her identity and that it’s the twentieth anniversary of their escape. When a body is discovered in the basement of the brewery, the note takes on added significance: the killer has just begun and it’s up to Claire to stop the next death.
Elle Marr’s novel is bound to spark comparisons to Emma Donoghue’s Room, made into a film starring Brie Larson, or the true story of Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted and held for nine months before being rescued.
Lies We Bury alternates between “then,” when Missy was in that underground prison, and present time, with Claire, 20 years later, still traumatized by the experience. She’s approached by a writer, Shia, who has a contract to write a book about her. Initially she’s reluctant. Why submit to interviews that will force her to revisit that horrible time in her childhood? Desperate for money, Claire finally agrees to sit down with Shia when he promises her an initial $1,000, and an additional $100,000 when the book is published.
Shia is interested in Claire’s story because of all the women imprisoned by Chet, she seems to have emerged less damaged. Rosemary, who was continually raped by Chet, and gave birth to Claire, lives in Portland but suffers from agoraphobia, never leaving her house. Jenessa, whose mother, Nora, escaped and never returned for the other women, is an addict and has been in and out of rehab facilities. And, Lily, wise mother died in childbirth, fled to Europe but returns, pregnant and abandoned by her partner. Claire aka Missy has her dark moments, but compared to the others, she’s functioning.
There’s another complication: Chet will soon be released from prison. Is he controlling someone to commit these killings, hoping to implicate Claire as a way for extracting revenge? Claire has never acknowledged Chet as her father, but when she visits him in prison, she’s unsettled by the physical resemblance. He denies having anything to do with the killings. Claire isn’t sure whether to believe him, but she soon begins to suspect everyone in her orbit – Shia, Oz, a reporter at the Post covering the murders, even a stalker from her past. The one thing Claire knows is that she can’t reveal her identity to anyone at the Post or go to the police. The person behind the killings is setting Claire up and the only way she can prove her innocence is by finding the killer.
The “then” portions of the book delve into the female characters. Mother Rosemary tries her best to protect the children, schooling them, reading to them, and showing them affection, even though she herself suffers bouts of debilitating depression. She finally gets the courage to stage the escape when she realized that Chet has started to “notice” Missy. Not wanting her daughter to suffer her fate, she makes a plan.
Marr succeeds in creating a page turner. Suspects abound and we can feel Claire’s desperation as she fears she must rely only on herself, much as she did in that basement room. Chet is a fictional character, but what makes Lies We Bury truly scary is that here are real Chets walking among us.
Lies We Bury
Top photo: Bigstock
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