Thorns of Rosewood. Suspense fiction at its best!
Gloria Larson has moved to Rosewood, Nebraska, ostensibly to take over the small town’s newspaper, but her real reason is to find her birth mother. The unwillingness of her adoptive parents to help only pushes her to follow her heart and her curiosity.
What Gloria does know is that her birth mother was accused of murder. And back in 1974, a woman named Naomi Waterman Talbot disappeared. No body was ever recovered, so no one was prosecuted. Suspects in the unsolved case include four women, known by area residents as the Thorns of Rosewood, who now reside in the Meadowbrook Assisted Living facility.
In her determination to find the truth, Gloria interviews the Thorns and is surprised and shocked by what she finds out. In the process of their time together, Gloria and the elderly women become close. She wants to believe the best of them, but are they guilty of murder? What really happened to Mrs. Talbot? And which one of the women is Gloria’s birth mother?
Author G.M. Barlean weaves a story of cunning and treachery, of loves won and lost, of betrayal and misplaced justice, all wound tightly together with cords of tension. The protagonist’s search for her birth mother is motivation enough for her to find the truth. She’s willing to risk all in order to find out what her adoptive parents and now the Thorns have been hiding from her.
Barlean’s characters are fully developed and consistent, strong and quirky enough to be real. There were times I became confused between the four elderly women who continued their bond of faithful friendship through time and trial, but the story still played out well.
I especially enjoyed the settings, the background colors of the story. Small town life came across clearly, whether it was the 1950s or the 70s, or the present. The author describes the homecoming dance in 1950, the entrance of Naomi Waterman in her “silky red dress…pointy-toed black spiked heels…long red hair.” (Location 629) She mentions Mickey’s Dime and Drug on Tenth Street where the girls sipped sodas and malted at the long shiny counter with bright red stools. (Location 754)
The element that keeps the plot twisting is the unanswered question: what really happened in ’74. And just when we think we have the answer, one of the Thorns says, “I’ll tell you what really happened that night.” This story kept me reading late into the night to find the answer to the story question, and it was well worth the effort.
I read this story on my Kindle app, but it’s available in any digital format you might like, as well as in print. The print version runs at 327 pages.
Barlean offers a sequel to Thorns in her next novel, Flames of Rosewood. NOTE: Since I posted this blog, I bought and read Flames of Rosewood. You can find my brief review on Goodreads, titled “Sequel Disappointment.”