Still Mine is Amy Stuart's debut novel.
Clare is on the run - from a past that slowly comes to light as the story progresses. She is on her way to a rundown, remote mining town called Blackmore. Why? She's there at the direction of a man named Malcolm - to see if she can discover anything about a missing local woman named Shayna.
Stuart is spare with details in the beginning - it absolutely ensures the reader will keep turning pages, eager to see who and why. And I did, but I felt a wee bit annoyed at the pacing of it. Malcolm is alluded to many times, without any idea of who he is and why Clare is following his directions until we're a fair ways into the book.
The setting was good - dark, atmospheric and totally mirroring the tone and plot of the book. It had the feel of a cross between Justified and Winter's Bone - rundown town off the beaten track, poverty, drugs, violence and simmering undercurrents.
And I held onto that image as I read - it allowed me to ignore my pragmatic nature and not question Clare's decisions. Her past seems to let her easily slip into the town's underbelly. I did have a harder time with some of the other locals - why they 'adopted' her so fast. An old man letting a woman he just met look after his dementia stricken wife alone was a bit of stretch for me.
There are two stories running concurrently through Still Mine - Clare's and Shayna's. Journal entries interspersed between chapters give the reader a good idea what has happened to Shayna even as Clare continues to try to find her. Although Shayna's disappearance is at the centre of the plot, I found myself much more invested in Clare's story.
I liked that I couldn't predict what was going to happen next in Still Mine. Stuart keeps the reader guessing right to the end. And the ending was perfect - opening up the door to the sequel that Stuart is working on - and I will be watching for.
The title is very clever - no spoilers, but it can be taken two ways. Read an excerpt of Still Mine.
You can connect with Amy Stuart on her website, as well as on Twitter and Facebook.