"The Missing" C L Taylor
This novel carries the sub heading "the gripping psychological thriller that's got everyone talking" and it certainly has! I was so disappointed to miss out on an ARC of this and it has been such a very very long wait until publication day - made more intense by being completely inundated with rave reviews from the whole of Twitter and a barrage of press releases / tweets from the publisher and author taunting me almost hourly with tantalising excerpts! My expectations were taken to such a level I began to worry that I might be disappointed!
Of course I wasn't! I had promised myself that I would read this in as close to one sitting as I could but actually this wasn't in any way a challenge. I devoured the book and found it quite addictive.
For those few of you still to read this, I don't want to give too much away. The premise of the novel is that Claire's teenage son has gone missing six months ago. Claire, her husband Mark and Billy's older brother Jake all have secrets to hide and all had altercations with Billy just before he was last seen alive. The family desperately clings together by fine threads as the toll of not knowing and the continuous search for answers exhausts them all; keeping them under tremendous pressure. Claire is also acutely aware of the noticeable withdrawal of Jake's live in girlfriend Kira, who had escaped her own troubled childhood to seek refuge in their once "happy" family home. Kira actively avoids spending time in the presence of Claire or Mark and visibly flinches when physically approached. What has made her so wary of them? What does she know? What does she think they did to Billy? Is Jake's drinking out of control? What further secrets are being kept from Claire? Claire becomes more and more suspicious and paranoid; especially as she realises that nothing she knew before Billy's disappearance was true.
It's not only Billy that is missing. Claire suffers from "fugues"; short periods of blackouts from which she awakes confused, disorientated and without any memory of the preceding events or how she ends up where she does.What scares her the most is the horrific scenarios she finds herself in on waking - real life nightmares from which she has no way of knowing what harm she has caused or what damage she has inflicted to innocent bystanders or people in her path.
This is a gripping story. Claire is a captivating narrator. The reader feels great empathy for her role as a grieving mother and yet is also aware that she could be potentially responsible for Billy's disappearance; the violence and terror that result from her fugue's show her capable of harm. C L Taylor litters her storyline with conflicting information, details which incriminate each character and show all of them to be flawed in a way that generates immense tension. However she does this with great control and command so the reader is not overly confused or caught up in an impossible entanglement of unnecessary sub plots and red herrings. The plot remains believable and the family realistic even as their unlikeable sides are disclosed. Claire is an unreliable narrator but we still relate to her, understanding her paranoid anxiety and her increasing panic as she no longer knows who to believe or if she can even trust herself. The writing is so fluid and well paced that the story races along and it is impossible to find a convenient place to tear yourself away. There are cliffhangers and snap shots of Whatsapp conversations with which we are constantly teased and this also reflects Taylor's flawless plot structure. It is also a realistic portrayal of teenagers and I liked that as the story develops, revelations about the character of Billy himself is not always that likeable. Again, Claire's view has been tainted, she's been deluded and played and needs to confront this in order to find the answers she so desperately seeks.
I thought the psychological aspect of the mental condition of "fugues" - or these prolonged periods of amnesia - was a really interesting component. It was very effective in creating more drama and further depth to the plot and character. It really challenged the reader and ensured we are kept guessing right up to the last minute. We are never sure who to trust.
I have to agree with @cleo_bannister and @jocatrobertson that this is Taylor's best book yet. This novel felt more polished and more fluent than her previous titles. The characters were more developed, it was more intriguing and the main narrative voice was more complex. It was full of topical issues. It is as visual as her other novels but somehow more memorable.
I have read "The Lie" and "The Accident" which I rated 3/5 stars and 4/5 stars respectively, but I think "The Missing" will have to be a 5/5 rating. I read it quickly, I was intrigued, I was kept guessing to the end, I liked the characters, I found it believable, I was entertained and it was well written. What more can anyone ask from an author?! If you haven't read it (or Taylor's other books) I highly recommend it - don't miss out on the book everyone really is talking / blogging / tweeting about! And personally I can't wait until the next novel from this great thriller writer!
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