Book Review – The Missing by C.L. Taylor

Fifteen year old Billy Wilkinson goes missing one day in the middle of the night. His mother, Claire is distraught and starts running public appeals. Six months later, the police still has not arrested anybody nor found the body. However, the Wilkinson family is one who keep secrets from each other. As Claire uncovers one secret after another, everyone becomes a suspect. Questions pop up like field mushrooms in the morning after a humid and rainy evening. Can she trust her own children? Can she trust her husband? Or her best friend Liz? Does anybody actually know what happened to Billy? Is someone keeping the terrifying secret? Or is Claire going mad?

There are three factors that make this book an exciting read – the first is what I would call the constant ‘evolution of suspect’. As Claire starts observing oddities in her family members’ everyday behavior, the secrets harbored by each family member starts to get uncovered. The imaginary cogs in my brain start trying to work how how he/she could be involved, until Taylor reveals another secret in the next few chapters, providing new fodder for the Sherlock Holmes in me to feed on. This book will definitely keep you guessing, all  the way till the last few chapters where the big reveal happens.

The second plus for me is the exacting use of the unreliable narrator technique. The primary narrator, Claire, is revealed to have some sort of dis-associative amnesia (whatever that is), causing her to have blackouts and waking up several hours, or even days later, not knowing what happened throughout the blackout. Things are only revealed later on when she tries piecing the events together. Claire also sometimes see things that aren’t actually there, think of wild thoughts that are completely illogical. Somewhat similar to a previous book I’ve read with an excellent unreliable narrator technique too – The Girl on the Train.

The third is a twist on the use of the unreliable narrator. Interspersed in between some of the chapters, we are privy to a text conversation between two people. A ‘Jackdaw44’ and ‘ICE9’. We have no idea who they are and how they are related, but suffice to say the subject matter of their conversation caught my attention quickly. Taylor integrates this well with the ‘evolution of suspect’ mentioned in point #1. As each secret gets revealed, an increasing number of suspicious people get chalked up to be possible participants in the conversation. A million thoughts begin to run through my mind as I flip back and forth on the text exchanges to make sure I haven’t missed a little clue here and there, perhaps misread a word, or carelessly skimmed over a tiny detail.

Of course, with all great psychological thrillers, the big twist at the end did not disappoint. The big reveal tied up all the oddities that appeared earlier perfectly. It does also provide for a balanced closure, and left me my thoughts steaming over the book for awhile.

Rating 5/5 (well balanced flavors in the book – mystery, domestic noir, crime, suspense – promises to keep you guessing till the end)

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