Review: Before She Was Found by Heather Gudenkauf

Title: Before She Was Found by Heather Gudenkauf
Publisher: Park Row
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


A gripping thriller about three young girlfriends, a dark obsession and a chilling crime that shakes up a quiet Iowa town, from the New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence.

For twelve-year-old Cora Landry and her friends Violet and Jordyn, it was supposed to be an ordinary sleepover—movies and Ouija and talking about boys. But when they decide to sneak out to go to the abandoned rail yard on the outskirts of town, little do they know that their innocent games will have dangerous consequences.

Later that night, Cora Landry is discovered on the tracks, bloody and clinging to life, her friends nowhere to be found. Soon their small rural town is thrust into a maelstrom. Who would want to hurt a young girl like Cora—and why? In an investigation that leaves no stone unturned, everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted—not even those closest to Cora.

Before She Was Found is a timely and gripping thriller about friendship and betrayal, about the power of social pressure and the price of needing to fit in. It is about the great lengths a parent will go to protect their child and keep them safe—even if that means burying the truth, no matter the cost.


Before She Was Found by Heather Gudenkauf is a heartrending mystery about a twelve year old girl who has been brutally attacked.  

Cora Landry has always been a bit of an outcast at her elementary school but she is hoping that will change now she is in middle school. So she is relieved when she befriends new to town Violet Crow. Unfortunately, Violet is also friends with mean girl and bully Jordyn Petit, and Cora is disappointed when the three girls are assigned to work on a school project together. They are soon engrossed in their research about an urban legend that started in 1944. Teenager Joseph Wither is suspected of murdering and kidnapping teenage girls from their small hometown in Pitch, Iowa. But after their project is complete, the girls have a falling out that lasts quite a few months. Cora gradually wins back Violet’s friendship but she is suspicious about Jordyn’s unexpected overtures. She is anxious about Jordyn’s motives for suggesting the sleepover that Cora is coerced into hosting. Why would Cora, Violet and Jordyn go the the abandoned train station in the middle of the night? Do the girls know who attacked Cora? And more importantly, why?

Cora, Jordyn and Violet are from very different backgrounds. Cora lives with her parents and older sister Kendall.  Cora’s parents are overprotective but this has not stopped their daughter from being targeted by bullies.  Violet’s mother Beth is divorced and they, along with her older brother Max, recently moved to Pitch. Beth works long hours to support the family and she is relieved her daughter spends her afternoons at Cora’s house.  Jordyn’s grandparents have raised her from the time she was a toddler. Her grandmother is currently in a rehab hospital where she is recovering from a broken hip so her grandfather Thomas is taking care of her on his own. Jordyn has been in her fair share of trouble in the past, but Thomas is certain she is telling the truth about what happened at the train station.

Psychiatrist Madeline Gideon is called in to help Cora deal with the aftermath of her injuries. She is a little troubled by some of the family’s dynamics but she continues to encourage Cora to confide in her. Madeline is also asked to talk to Violet who is clearly terrified about what happened the night Cora was attacked. By talking with both girls, will Madeline find out the truth about what happened that fateful night?

Weaving back and forth in time, Before She Was Found is an absolutely spellbinding mystery. The story unfolds through different points of view, police interviews, diary entries, text messages, and on-line correspondence.  None of the girls are completely forthcoming about the events that led up to Cora’s injuries.  But is their reluctance to talk because they were somehow involved? Or is their silence due to fear? Heather Gudenkauf answers these intriguing questions with an absolutely twist-filled and jaw-dropping denouement that is impossible to predict. I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend this cleverly written and suspenseful mystery.

1 Comment

Filed under Before She Was Found, Contemporary, Heather Gudenkauf, Mystery, Park Row Books, Rated B+, Review, Suspense

One Response to Review: Before She Was Found by Heather Gudenkauf

  1. I have this on order at the bookstore, I’m hoping it comes soon because this sounds really good. Thank you for being on this tour! Sara @ TLC Book Tours