Book Review: Hawthorn Woods by Patrick Canning

 Hawthorn Woods
Patrick Canning
File Size: 2019 KB
Print Length: 283 pages
Publication Date: August 4, 2020
Sold by: Services LLC
Language: English

 BOOK BLURB:  Summer, 1989. Reeling from a catastrophic divorce she just can’t seem to leave behind, Francine Haddix flees San Francisco for a two-week stay at her sister’s house in Hawthorn Woods, Illinois. The quaint neighborhood of shady trees and friendly neighbors seems like the perfect place to sort through her pain and finally move on with her life—but the tranquility doesn’t last long.

Beginning with a complete stranger throwing a drink in her face at her own welcome party, Francine soon discovers the supposedly idyllic suburb is hiding a disturbing number of mysteries. Why is the handsome-ish guy next door lying about who he is? What’s hidden in the back of the teenage troublemaker’s shed? Who wrote a
threatening message in blood? Which of the smiling neighbors has a secret they’d kill to keep?

Seeking to reclaim a natural passion for sleuthing numbed by her divorce, Francine rewrites her prescription from one of relaxation, to one of investigation. If she can detect the lies, follow the clues, and remember how to trust herself, she might get to the bottom of what’s so very wrong in Hawthorn Woods. She might even be able to
believe the future can be good again—assuming she lives long enough to be in it.

First off I have got to say how much I enjoyed meeting Francine in this story. I loved many of the other characters too, especially Charlie the young boy, and Bruno the mystery man next door, but the flawed, confused Francine spoke to my heart from page one.

Much like the style of Canning’s previous book The Colonel and the Bee, this story is filled with quirky characters and very unusual circumstances that turn the plot in a slightly different direction, adding another layer of reader interest and speculation.  There are also splashes of humor that made me smile and a few places actually laugh out loud.

One of the first things that endeared me to Francine, and made me appreciate the talent of this author, is when she attends her first neighborhood gathering after coming to Hawthorn Lake. She checks out all the men and has this mental observation, “All around, waist lines and hairlines raced away from each other to see which could finish off sex appeal first. Resigned clothing hung from soft shaped bodies below faces with untrimmed mustaches and untreated rosacea.”

I highlighted a number of other places in the book, including this bit of advice that was given to Francine by one her confidants, “When life is good, the bad news is, things change. When life is bad, the good news is, things change. You’re due for good news, my dear. You just have to hold out until the change.”

When you read this book – and I recommend that you do – hold on to your hat when you get to the end. There’s a twist of the plot that I didn’t see coming at all, but when it happened it made some of the earlier story elements make so much more sense than they did at the time. I can’t be specific here, as I don’t want to give anything away, but I guarantee you will appreciate the surprise that the author reveals at just the perfect time.

I find much pleasure in reading a story that keeps me wondering and asking questions, as opposed to one in which the author throws everything on the page. A story is much more engaging when I’m kept just a little off center.That was so true with this book, and because I had to know the “why”, I had a hard time putting down my e-reader when it was long past time for lights-out.


PATRICK CANNING is the author of three novels, including Cryptofauna (2018), The Colonel and the Bee (2018), and his latest, Hawthorn Woods (2020). When he isn’t writing, he enjoys playing beach volleyball, following space exploration, and losing at bar trivia. Patrick lives in Los Angeles with his dog Hank, who some consider to be the greatest dog of all time. You can find book reviews (and dog pictures) on his Instagram: @catpanning, and more of his work at

I hope you enjoyed the introduction to the book, and please do come back on Wednesday when Patrick will be my guest. In an interview we talk a little bit about the book and the choices he made in writing it. You’ll enjoy it. I promise.

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