Casey, Jane - 'The Missing'
Jane Casey is a new author, who has already been signed up for more novels in the future, and reading this, it's easy to see why. The 'blurb' on the back of the proof copy compares her to Nicci French, Sophie Hannah and Kate Atkinson. I don't think she compares well to Kate Atkinson, who really is in a class of her own, but there is some similarity to the Sophie Hannah and Nicci French Books. However, in a nice contrast to the Nicci French books, which often focus on how someone's life can be turned upside down by some unusual event, in this book, the events of the book help the main character (Sarah) to come to terms with her eventful past allowing her to move on with her life.
Sarah is an English teacher at a local private school. She still lives with her mother, and neither she, nor her mother, have really recovered from the disappearance of Sarah's brother Charlie, 16 years ago, when he was just 12 years old. As a result, Sarah's parents divorced, and shortly afterwards, her father died in a car accident. They still live in the same house that they lived in when Charlie disappeared, and have an uneasy relationship. Her mother hasn't managed to pick up the pieces and move on. She still keeps Charlie's room as it was when he disappeared, and buries her despair in drink. Sarah stays with her mother out of concern for her, and her own sense of guilt in that she feels it was partly her fault that Charlie disappeared. She tries to live a quiet life, and has even changed her name to avoid being linked with Charlie's disappearance.
The book starts with disappearance of a young 12 year-old girl, called Jenny, one of Sarah's students. Shockingly, soon afterwards, when Sarah is out on an evening jog, she discovers Jenny's body. Although this immediately brings back the loss of her brother, Sarah doesn't remind the police about Charlie, because she doesn't want to draw attention to herself. But she discovers that Jenny used to live just a few streets away. Could the same person responsible for Charlie's disappearance also somehow be linked to Jenny's?
The story follows Sarah's inevitable involvement in trying to find out not only what happened to Jenny, but also to her own brother Charlie, all those years ago. There are quite a few twists and turns, including an attraction to one of the investigating officers, and the unwanted attentions of a persistent admirer, a colleague at the school, both of which play a crucial role in the story. The story is well plotted, although somewhat predictable in places, and the characters, although sometimes a little caricatured, are well drawn. There is the feel of a journey for Sarah, as she finally starts to come to terms with Charlie's disappearance, her relationship with her mother, and the start of a possible relationship with another man for the first time in a long while. She starts to notice what is going on around her, and it's what she starts to see that help her piece together what probably happened to Charlie. There is a dramatic denouement at the end, which probably didn't need to be quite as dramatic to have the same effect, and a few last twists before the story finally resolves itself. All in all, this is a very promising beginning for this new author.
Michelle Peckham, England