Excerpt – Before She Was Found by Heather Gudenkauf

So excited for this upcoming release!

Thanks to Park Row Books and TLC Book Tours for the copy and excerpt in exexchangfor my honest review.

BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND – Heather Gudenkauf (Releasing April 16th, 2019)

Check back on April 20th for my full review!


Book Description:

A gripping thriller about three young girlfriends, a dark obsession and a chilling crime that shakes up a quiet Iowa town

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.


I know I should answer the phone but for the first time in almost a year a man is beneath me and inside me. Our fingers intertwine and we move as one person. The phone rings and rings and I briefly think of my kids. Violet is spending the night at Cora’s house and Max, I hope, is fast asleep downstairs. Usually Boomer alerts me to the comings and goings of my kids but I have been a bit distracted for the past hour or so. Sam reaches out and cups my face in his palm, his fingers pressing into my cheek, keeping my eyes on his, and I push any thought of my children aside.

Finally, my heart stops galloping and Sam presses his face to my neck, his beard velvety against my skin, and I remember the ringing phone. It’s late. Or early, depending on how you look at it—1:00 a.m. Way too late for any good news.

“Don’t worry, they’ll call back if it’s important,” Sam murmurs in my ear, reading my mind. We doze. Then that voice, that good mother voice that I so pride myself on having says, Get dressed, you don’t want Max or Violet to see you like this. But instead I move closer to Sam all the while thinking it’s been so long since someone has held me like this.

It isn’t Max or Violet or the telephone that wakes us up, it’s the sirens. At first a single alarm whoops off in the distance and then is joined by several more. I scramble from the bed, pulling the sheets around me, and run to the window and crane my neck to the left and the right, hoping to catch sight of the emergency lights. No such luck. No streetlights line our road and the houses across the street are still dark.

“Max,” I breathe, somehow sure that the sirens are for him. That he has been in a car accident or is out doing something stupid—hanging out on the train tracks, drinking with friends. “Max!” I shout as I quickly throw on the clothes I wore earlier. “Max!”

I move through Violet’s side of the bedroom that we separate with one of those room partitions. On my side of the partition I have pictures of Max and Violet and an old one of my parents. On Violet’s side are a few hand-drawn pictures of unicorns and fairies and landscape sketches of the railroad tracks west of town.

I rush down the steps and to the family room. Max’s bedroom door is open and I slap at the light switch on the wall. His bed is unmade, but that doesn’t mean anything; he rarely makes it, anyway. I turn and push through a second door, the bathroom—empty—and a third door that leads to our narrow galley kitchen, also empty except for a few dirty plates and silverware in the sink. Max has been here between the time I snuck Sam up into my bedroom and now.

“Try and call him,” Sam says, coming up behind me and laying a hand on my shoulder. His fingers feel like lead weights and I shrug them away. I suddenly want him out of my house. Gone.

The sound of sirens fades and I allow myself a moment of hope. Pitch is tiny. Too little to have emergency services like a hospital or ambulance or a fire station. For these we rely on Oskaloosa to the south of us or the city of Grayling, about a half an hour northeast of Pitch. We do have a police department that consists of a chief, one full-time and two part-time officers.

I run back upstairs and fumble around for my cell phone and finally find it on the floor next to the bed. I call Max’s phone and it rings and rings until it goes to voice mail. Behind me I’m aware of Sam pulling on his shoes.

“No answer,” I say. I’m trying not to panic. This isn’t the first time Max hasn’t come home by his midnight curfew. I was hoping that this rural Iowa town might be good for him after Algodon where he had fallen in with a rough group—drinking, smoking and God knows what else. But I guess even Pitch has its share of wild teenagers. So now I get to worry about him being out at all hours of the night, raising hell in a cornfield or on the railroad tracks instead of in the mountains. Same problems—new setting.

“He’s probably just at a friend’s house,” Sam says, pulling a sweatshirt over his head. I nod, wanting it to be true. “Do you have a picture of him? I can drive around, see if I can find him.”

“No, no, that’s okay,” I tell him. “I know the places he goes.” This is not entirely true. I know that Max hangs around with a boy named Clint, who either wears the same camo pants every day or owns a pair for each day of the week. Clint, when he comes over to the house, won’t look at me and answers questions in the fewest amount of words possible. He has close-set, ferrety eyes and always has a pissed-off look on his face. I don’t know much about his family except that he lives in a trailer east of town with his mom and two brothers.

“Do you want me to stay here, then? Wait and see if he comes back?”

There’s no way that I’m going to leave this man alone in my home. “I think it’s best if you just go,” I tell him. “I’ll go and look for him myself. Thanks, though.”

“Let me drive you around, then,” Sam says, looking at me as if he really wants to help. “You can keep trying to reach him while I drive.”

He has a point. Though Pitch is just a speck on the map, I’m not so familiar with all the back roads.

My thoughts turn to a girl that Max doesn’t know I’m aware of. “There’s a girl,” I say. “I think she lives out near the fairgrounds.” I think her name is Nikki. She’s pretty in a too-much makeup, overplucked-eyebrow sort of way. She comes into the convenience store where I work several times a week—Pitch Fuel and Feed. Seriously, that’s its name. She nearly always buys the same things: a can of Red Bull, cinnamon-flavored gum and a pack of powdered-sugar donuts. Sometimes she comes in by herself and sometimes she comes in with a girl of about five who has Down syndrome. I assume she’s Nikki’s sister.


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