It’s 1958, and a serial killer is targeting the Midwest. Their crimes are dubbed the Bloodless Murders, because the victims are all found exsanguinated. The police are baffled by the absence of blood at the scenes, as well as the lack of any signs of struggle.
When the Carlson family is murdered in the small Minnesota town of Black Deer Falls, local police find a teenage girl, Marie Catherine Hale, in the Carlson home, drenched in their blood. They arrest her and charge her as an accomplice, certain that she couldn’t have carried out the murders on her own. But Marie is unwilling to talk to investigators.
Instead, Marie offers to tell her story to the sheriff’s son, Michael Jensen, an aspiring reporter. Thoughtful and unassuming, Michael is a receptive ear for the tale Marie has to tell, even if both a tenacious prosecutor and the townsfolk resent him for it. But as Michael begins to fall for Marie, he struggles to be both her confessor and her savior.
All These Bodies is narrated by Michael, so readers only see Marie through his eyes. Her confession is rife with deflections and uncertainty. It’s clear that she has experienced trauma, though she never reveals its details and is generally spare with information about herself. Readers will more readily connect with Michael’s best friend, Percy, who supports Michael’s dream of escaping their small town, even though he knows it will mean losing him. The two share a deep bond, and Percy is vehemently protective of Michael, sometimes at a great personal cost.
Author Kendare Blake is best known for her paranormal horror novel Anna Dressed in Blood and her dark fantasy series, Three Dark Crowns. All These Bodies, a historical mystery with touches of gothic fiction, crime and the paranormal, is a notable departure for her. Blake is sparse with historical details, which keeps the story moving but can also make its 1950s setting seem arbitrary. However, her depiction of Marie’s misogynist treatment by the press feels both accurate to the period and ripped from contemporary headlines. Readers who enjoy mysteries heavy with ambiguity and light on straightforward, spelled-out solutions should plan for Blake to keep them reading well past bedtime.