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Unspeakable Things by [Jess Lourey]
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Unspeakable Things Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 8,299 ratings

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Length: 296 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled Audible book:
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From the Editor

I love when I find a novel that uses fact to propel its fictional plot, creating something resonant and—dare I say—special. Jess Lourey’s Unspeakable Things is one such work, a cross between Stephen King’s The Body and Megan Abbott’s The Fever.

In her latest novel, Lourey takes us back to the 1980s, a time when latchkey kids were as common as Pop Rocks, and children would ride their bikes unsupervised through town and country until sundown. Lilydale, Minnesota, middle-schooler Cassie McDowell is an aspiring writer obsessed with “strange but true” fact books that distract her from the creepy and predatory men who hang with her father in the basement of their isolated farmhouse. School is her sanctuary, or at least it was until her male classmates started disappearing and coming back changed. While the adults carry on like everything is normal, Cassie is intent on finding the truth, no matter what the consequence.

Unspeakable Things builds its plot on true events. Lourey’s hometown of Paynesville, Minnesota (on which Lilydale is based), made national news in 1989 when eleven-year-old Jacob Wetterling went missing—the mystery unsolved for nearly twenty-seven years. His disappearance led Minnesota to create the first state sexual predator registry, paving the way for the national sex offender registry. These events were the subject of the 2016 American Public Media–produced podcast In the Dark.

A child of the eighties, Lourey blends her adult understanding of a dangerous time with a childlike wonder, capturing the magic of the era but also creating something much darker that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

- Jessica Tribble Wells, Editor

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Editorial Reviews


“Set in Lilydale, Minn., in the 1980s…the suspense never wavers in this page-turner.” Publishers Weekly

“The atmospheric suspense novel is haunting because it’s narrated from the point of view of a 13-year-old, an age that should be more innocent but often isn’t. Even more chilling, it’s based on real-life incidents. Lourey may be known for comic capers (March of Crimes), but this tense novel combines the best of a coming-of-age story with suspense and an unforgettable young narrator.” Library Journal

“Part suspense, part coming-of-age, Jess Lourey’s Unspeakable Things is a story of creeping dread, about childhood when you know the monster under your bed is real. A novel that clings to you long after the last page.” —Lori Rader-Day, Edgar Award–nominated author of Under a Dark Sky

“A noose of a novel that tightens by inches. The squirming tension comes from every direction—including the ones that are supposed to be safe. I felt complicit as I read, as if at any moment I stopped I would be abandoning Cassie, alone, in the dark, straining to listen and fearing to hear.” —Marcus Sakey, bestselling author of Brilliance

Unspeakable Things is an absolutely riveting novel about the poisonous secrets buried deep in towns and families. Jess Lourey has created a story that will chill you to the bone and a main character who will break your heart wide open.” —Lou Berney, Edgar Award-winning author of November Road

“Inspired by a true story, Unspeakable Things crackles with authenticity, humanity, and humor. The novel reminded me of To Kill A Mockingbird and The Marsh King’s Daughter. Highly recommended.” —Mark Sullivan, bestselling author of Beneath a Scarlet Sky

“Jess Lourey does a masterful job building tension and dread, but her greatest asset in Unspeakable Things is Cassie—an arresting narrator you identify with, root for, and desperately want to protect. This is a book that will stick with you long after you’ve torn through it.” —Rob Hart, author of The Warehouse

“With Unspeakable Things, Jess Lourey has managed the near-impossible, crafting a mystery as harrowing as it is tender, as gut-wrenching as it is lyrical. There is real darkness here, a creeping, inescapable dread that more than once had me looking over my own shoulder. But at its heart beats the irrepressible—and irresistible—spirit of its 12-year-old heroine, a young woman so bright and vital and brave she kept even the fiercest monsters at bay. This is a book that will stay with me for a long time.” —Elizabeth Little, Los Angeles Times bestselling author of Dear Daughter and Pretty as a Picture

About the Author

Jess Lourey writes about secrets. She is a bestselling Agatha, Anthony, and Lefty Award-nominated author of crime fiction, magical realism, young adult, and nonfiction. She is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, a recipient of The Loft’s Excellence in Teaching fellowship, a Psychology Today blogger, and a TEDx presenter (check out her TEDx Talk for the inspiration behind her first published novel). When not leading writing workshops, reading, or spending time with her friends and family, you can find her working on her next story. Discover more at

Product details

  • File Size : 4793 KB
  • Publication Date : January 1, 2020
  • Word Wise : Enabled
  • Print Length : 296 pages
  • Publisher : Thomas & Mercer (January 1, 2020)
  • Language: : English
  • Screen Reader : Supported
  • Text-to-Speech : Not enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
  • X-Ray : Enabled
  • Lending : Not Enabled
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.3 out of 5 stars 8,299 ratings