Bury This by Andrea Portes is a peculiar little novel about a cold case finally being solved after twenty-five years. In 1978, a young woman named Beth Krause was brutally murdered, her body abandoned by the side of a snowy road in her small hometown of Muskegon, Michigan. With no real leads or any particular suspects, her murder was never solved and became a well-known cold case to locals. No matter how many years passed, however, the detective initially in charge of the investigation was never able to live down the inner guilt he felt for not being able to bring justice to Beth’s memory and her grieving parents. Her best friend Shauna, a troubled yet sensitive girl with a deep desire to be accepted and loved, turned to the comfort of food after Beth’s murder, becoming an obese shut-in and the joke of the town.
It’s when a group of college students decide to make a documentary about Beth’s murder that new interest is sparked in the unsolved case, leading a now middle-aged Shauna down a path of painful memories she can no longer hide from, and Detective Barnett on the hunt for the truth he’d been so desperate to find for more than two decades. With old evidence, once overlooked or thought to be insignificant, proving to be the keys to the case, the sleepy town of Muskegon is finally able to learn what happened to their sweet, innocent Beth and why she met such a tragic, untimely end at the age of 21.
I found the entire murder of Beth – the investigation, the motive (once revealed), the aftermath – to be entirely realistic and well dealt with. I liked the depth that Andrea Portes gave to each character’s personality, and I found both Beth and Shauna to be especially intriguing young girls – particularly the dynamics of their close albeit rocky friendship. The book is written in a stream of consciousness style, which is pretty different for this type of novel. It often switches character perspective abruptly and goes in and out of third and first person randomly. This can make the book a little tricky to navigate, and to be honest I wasn’t sure I wanted to read past the first chapter at first, but Portes’ writing somehow built up an itching sort of curiosity in me and kept me turning the pages, caught in the idiosyncratic yet fascinating web she was weaving together to tell this story. It seemed like every time I picked Bury This up to read, I’d thought to myself how I wasn’t sure I even wanted to, but once I got started I couldn’t seem to put it down.
I would’ve liked for the documentary crew to have had more to do with solving the murder though, if only because that was the impression I got from the jacket description and felt a little cheated when I actually got to reading the book and realized they were only active in a few short chapters. I think I was initially expecting The Virgin Suicides meets The Blair Witch Project with this book, and that’s definitely not what Bury This is. What the book in fact is, is the literary equivalent of a 90s Lifetime movie with a cold case “ripped from the headlines” as its focal point and told in a mixture of pretty prose and gritty poetry. The writing style that Andrea Portes uses is not going to be for everyone, but it’s undeniable that she is a wonderful writer whose work deserves to be recognized and given a shot. Her book is a pretty unusual one, given the way in which its subject matter is written about, but it’s not bad, and personally I feel it is easily worthy of a recommendation.