Author: Amanda Jaeger
Publication Date: 15 March 2021
Available As: Paperback and e-book
Fey Anderson has always dreamt about escaping the crowded streets of Saint Paign. Soura Heights appears to be the picture-perfect place to run to, but she never expected her move there to be forced upon her. But when her husband, Bruce, goes missing, her deepest fear becomes reality and determination drives her to drop city living and find the truth behind his death. It’s all about survival in Soura Heights. Will Fey uncover what happened and bring justice for her husband, or will she be the next to fall?
Amanda Jaeger, the author of The Fallen in Soura Heights, describes the book at “A contemporary suspense for murderino sleuths who know not to trust any amount of charm”, an absolutely adorable term that wonderfully sums up the appeal of the book. The Fallen in Soura Heights is made up of twenty-five chapters, a prologue, and an epilogue, and opens with the murder of Jonny Schniber, a man with designs of expanding the picturesque small town of Soura Heights and who is beaten to death by a mysterious assailant for these dreams. The story then switches to follow Fey Anderson, a young widower on the cusp of turning twenty-one who moved to Soura Heights about a year ago and is still grieving for the unexplained death of her husband, Bruce.
Fey is a bit of a dreamer; every other chapter flashes back to her youth as a “Plain Jane” type who didn’t think too much of herself and didn’t quite fit in but who caught the eye of popular baseball player Bruce. They enjoyed quite the romance in the latter days of their teenage years, and married young, but while he worked pretty hard to provide for them and enjoyed his Chuck Norris movies, Fey was happy to lose herself in her writing and her daydreams. Soura Heights became a bit of a fixation of hers and she would often jot down her ideas of this idyllic town populated by people who actually took the time to get to know you, ask how you are, and avoided being transfixed by their screens and technology. Devastated by Bruce’s death, which occurred in Soura Heights, she travels there to try and get some kind of closure and is amazed to find that the town pretty much lives up to her expectations as a peaceful little place full of friendly characters.
Her best friend in town in Frankie, the friendly and helpful owner of a pie shop (adorably called Pie-Pie For Now); Frankie is a bit overbearing, in some ways, but always has Fey’s best interests at heart; like Bruce, she refers to Fey by a cute nickname, and she’s always encouraging her to change up her look and be a strong, independent woman. Frankie is instrumental in ingratiating Fey to Soura Heights and is a prominent figure in town; she seemingly knows everyone, engages with the locals and out-of-towners, and is very excited to show Fey the time of her life on her birthday. Other characters in town include Miss Davis, the cranky owner of a book shop Fey frequents, morose June, who Frankie once rescued after a car accident, local nutjob Louise, Claire and her young daughter BettyAnne (who has a love for animals), and Sheriff Tom Brickshaw.
All of these characters cross Fey’s path throughout the story and add to the quirky charm of the small town, which is so different to the busy city where Fey once lived with her lost love. Soura Heights is as much a character in the story as well, and is beautifully brought to life by the author; much of the story takes place on Busy Street, where small business line the streets, each with their own bell jingle and cute pun names. The town is very personable, so newcomers stick out noticeably, but has a welcoming air to it…except for the wilds of Covista Forest, where Bruce’s body was found a year ago. Fey was warned by Sheriff Brickshaw about the forest’s propensity to “swallow people up” and she is both fascinated and terrified by the forest. Her apprehension about exploring the wilds for some kind of closure is further stunted by the popularity of the Covista Trap, a Venus fly trap-like flower that many in town have taken to, but she’s determined to get to the root of Bruce’s death someway, somehow.
I went into The Fallen in Soura Heights expecting a gruesome murder mystery saga that does the cliché trick of jumping between the protagonist and the perspective of the mysterious killer but, instead, what I got was a charming little story of a grieving young woman just trying to find answers and constantly haunted by memories of happier times. Fey is quite a likeable character with all kinds of flaws and quirks to her personality; she constantly chews gum, an oddity that Bruce didn’t approve of, is terrified of cooking with an oven due to a traumatic experience at high school, and is fuelled by a determination that is matched only by her grief and imagination. Bruce’s death left her somewhat broken, and she uprooted her entire life to try and figure out what really happened as he mysteriously went out of his way to end up inSoura Heights when he had no real business being there, and I really enjoyed the flashbacks to their time together as a loved up couple. They were just a nice, normal young couple trying to make the most of their time together and the violence that suddenly came into her life completely shattered Fey’s daydreams of them having a long, happy life together with kids and ferns and cheese on apple pie.
I really enjoyed The Fallen in Soura Heights; the author does a wonderful job of characterising Fey, her relationship with Bruce, and this quirky little small town and a handful of its inhabitants. Rather than following a clinical, in-depth investigation into Bruce’s death, we’re following a grieving woman just trying to make sense of a tragedy and coming to terms with how much her life has changed; Fey wants closure, but isn’t really sure where to find it even in the town where Bruce died, and she’s just trying to understand what drew him there in the first place and rebuild her life. As a result, the story is less about trying to pick out possible suspects (although the author does throw in some alluring red herrings) and more about following Fey as she tries to cope with her grief. The story culminates in a really enjoyable and dramatic showdown between Fey and the persons responsible for Bruce’s death, which really pays into the themes of her growing as a woman and a character and overcoming her insecurities and self-doubts. The Fallen in Soura Heights ended up being an incredibly enjoyable read; chapters are easy to digest, the narrative is charming to follow, and the portrayal of the townsfolk and characters really makes the story a pleasurable experience. I wouldn’t mind returning to Soura Heights again to find out more about the town and see what other secrets are buried there but, for now, I would definitely recommend picking this one up if you’re a fan of character-driven mysteries.
If you’re interested in checking out The Fallen in Soura Heights, and to learn more about Amanda Jaeger and her journey as an author, visit the links at the top of the page.