A series of strange murders is leaving a grisly trail across the Midwest in the summer of 1958.
The bodies are found in their cars, their homes, their beds. All of them are drained of blood. But the scenes are clean. No blood anywhere.
On September 19 the Carlson family is slaughtered in their secluded farmhouse in Black Deer Falls, Minnesota and the police might finally have a lead when Marie Catherine Hale is found at the scene.
Covered in blood, mistaken for a survivor, it soon becomes clear that Marie is something else when police realize the blood is not hers.
Michael Jensen has been following coverage of the murders all summer, eager to test his mettle as an aspiring journalist and pave the way out of his small town. When his father, the local sheriff, arrests Marie, Michael knows it’s an opportunity he likely won’t see again.
Talking to Marie, assisting the police, having firsthand access to the case files gives Michael a close-up view of the investigation and the girl at its center. Marie doesn’t look like a killer, but she’s confessing to Michael over a series of interviews. She says there’s more to the killings than anyone can imagine but as her story unfolds Michael is the one who will have to decide if the truth is the same as what people will believe in All These Bodies (2021) by Kendare Blake.
All These Bodies was a 2021 Bram Stoker Award Nominee for Best Young Adult Novel. The story is narrated by Michael and all characters are assumed white.
Blake expertly unspools Michael’s naked ambition to become a journalist with his increasingly thorny ethical dilemma when it comes to using Marie’s story for his own gain. The narrative focuses on Marie and whether being complicit is the same as being an accomplice while slowly teasing out what may have happened to the Carlsons and all the other victims.
Centering Marie while having the story related by Michael explores questions of the male gaze and agency as the story builds to its dramatic finish. Marie’s journey in the media from victim to villain is nuanced and contrasts well with Michael’s own conflicting feelings on whether Marie can be the violent criminal authorities seem to think she is while also being his friend.
Michael’s pragmatic narration only increases the tension as Marie shares her confession to her role in the murders and hints at something even more sinister at play while leaving space for readers to interpret events for themselves.
All These Bodies is an atmospheric story at the intersection of true crime and horror; one that will stay with you in all of the best ways.
Possible Pairings: No Saints in Kansas by Amy Brashear, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, Breaker by Kat Ellis, I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus, Broken Things by Lauren Oliver, Sadie by Courtney Summers, The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas, The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman