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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Book Review – The Lie by C.L. Taylor

INTRO: I’ve been hunting for books by this author for awhile now. As some of you may know, I thrive on an unhealthy diet of dark, psychological thrillers – the darker, the twistier, all the better. I look forward to having my mind blown, spun, and slid into the deep abysses. I look forward to a book which tells me all of the things which I shudder at even daring to think about. According to goodreads (cliched, yes I know), C.L. Taylor was one of the top selections – though I think ‘The Accident’ was the top pick (sadly I couldn’t find it).

BRIEF without spoilers: Jane Hudges has a loving partner and a animal caretaker job she enjoys working at. However, that wasn’t the case 5 years ago. Five years ago her real name was Emma, and she went on a holiday to Nepal with 3 of her friends – Daisy, Leanne and Al. They went on a Nepalese retreat in the mountains. That was when everything went wrong and secrets between their picture-perfect friendship started to unravel. Things start to get bad to worse. This story tells us what happened.

NARRATIVE STYLE: Alternating flashbacks between the present forward-moving and past forward-moving. Segregated by chapters, no surprises there.

WRITING is easy to read, fast paced. Minimal bombastic words. Rather the page-turner.

MY TWO CENTS’ WORTH: The first 3/4 of the book hooked me in, line, sinker and all. It was darn exciting and the turn of events quickly got very dark. I experienced the telltale signs of a good thriller – the “I better continue reading this in the morning” spine-chilling feeling. There were moments when I went Oh Shit… and the chapter cliffhanged, continuing with the flashback 5 years ago/later. I do take some issue with the last 1/4 of the book though. It is rather odd as MOST books will start slow but have a great later half – this book defies that generalization. So anyway, at the last 1/4 portion, too many characters got involved (of which some I’ve already forgotten who they are as they didn’t seem significant earlier) and events started seeming a tad too fantastic. If a similar situation had occurred, it seems that a logical person would have made different choices, and much earlier at that.

Having said all that, I did enjoy this book for the most part. Though I was kinda expecting more at the end , like something which would change my whole perspective on what I’ve just read ( I think about Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes at this point. Review here. Go read it if you haven’t. )

Rating: 4.5/5 (hooks you in at the beginning and start devouring you quickly, almost finishes satisfying you but stops short of doing that fully 🙂 )