The Missing

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The Missing By Jane CaseyTwo Missing Children
Sixteen Years Apart
One Witness…

And there lies the outline of the plot for this debut psychological crime thriller from new author, Jane Casey. Jane was born and brought up in Dublin, but now lives and works as children’s books editor in London. Ebury Publishing believe she has a long-term career ahead and have bought two crime titles in a pre-emptive deal.

The story centres around young teacher Sarah Finch, whose brother, Charlie, went missing when she was a little girl aged seven and has never been found. The strain of never knowing what exactly has happened to Charlie, ripped Sarah’s family apart. Now in her early twenties, she is still living at home, trapped with a mother who not only drinks too much, but also keeps her brother’s bedroom as a shrine to his memory.

Then one of Sarah’s students, Jenny Shepherd, goes missing. As the police mount a search to try and find her, Sarah knows all too well that the chances of finding Jenny alive are diminishing with every day she is gone. Whilst out for a run in the woods, it is Sarah herself who stumbles upon the body of Jenny Shepherd. Suspicion is aroused and Sarah finds herself drawn into the police investigation and the heart of a media storm. But it not just the police who are watching her…

The shock and trauma of this tragedy force Sarah to confront feelings she has tried to suppress for many years about the disappearance of her brother Charlie. The book is written in the first person from Sarah’s point of view, but is interspersed with short flashback chapters beginning the day that Sarah’s brother went missing. These chapters featuring a younger Sarah are emotionally compelling. Through her childhood eyes, then through her teenage years we find out what happened to both Sarah and her family following her brother’s disappearance and how family life for Sarah was never the same again. It also helps the reader to understand her future actions, which at times are a little puzzling and frustrating.

These flashbacks are woven into the story very well and are short enough not to distract you from the main storyline, but provide you with a greater understanding of Sarah and her family.

The Missing is not a typical crime novel. Although there is police presence throughout the book in the shape of detectives Vickers and Blake, there is no detailed forensic analysis or procedures. The lack of this does not in any way detract from the realism of the book and there are included some interesting perceptions of police mentality and morality. Indeed, this is a book where I actually enjoyed the detective’s characters which were both really well developed by the author. In fact the characterisation in this book is very strong throughout and the relationship and subsequent tension between Sarah and Detective Blake is brilliantly portrayed. I thoroughly enjoyed the way it builds throughout, even though the character of Sarah did annoy me at times.

Sarah’s character is quite complex and I did find it hard to like her at first, but as the story goes on and we learn more about her, I did find myself starting to like and sympathise with her character. There were times when I was thinking “Why doesn’t she just do this?” or “Why doesn’t she say that?” I did get a little frustrated at times, but this also made for a compelling read.

“The surprising twists and turns will keep you hooked, but the story also exudes sadness…”

Although I was drawn into the book from the first page, it wasn’t immediately unputdownable. I spent a couple of days reading the first few chapters and did not think it was going to be a brilliant read, just an average one. The situation regarding Sarah’s mother becoming an alcoholic and keeping a room as a shrine to her missing son, has been done many times before. However, I did start to become intrigued by the relationship between mother and daughter.

The pace of the book did seem a little slow at the start and as I did not instantly take to Sarah’s character, I found it easy to read a little of the book then put it down. However, this all changed about a third of the way in. What I thought was going to be a run-of-the-mill crime thriller, became an intense unputdownable thriller. There were a few twists and turns and developments which made me realise that this story was not going to be as straightforward as I thought.

From this point onwards, I could not put this book down and I finished reading the remaining two thirds in one day. I could not and did not once guess the ending.

Casey writes with an intense yet sensitive approach to the subjects of child abduction, abuse and murder. She does not shy away from the horrific, but at no point does she glorify them. The surprising twists and turns will keep you hooked, but the story also exudes sadness and I feel Casey’s writing is brilliant as she describes the impact on those left behind, when a child is abducted and later found dead.

The publishers describe Jane Casey as a new Sophie Hannah, Nicci French or Kate Atkinson. If her debut novel is anything to go by I am sure she will have as much success as those established authors.

All that is left to say is ‘The Missing’ is a remarkable debut, a totally absorbing read which leaves its mark long after you’ve finished turning the last page.

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Missing (The)
by Jane Casey

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