Seven years ago, two boys went missing at sea – and only one was brought to shore. The Sandbank, a remote stretch of coast dotted with beach huts, was scarred forever.
Sarah’s son survived, but on the anniversary of the accident, he disappears without trace. As new secrets begin to surface, The Sandbank hums with tension and unanswered questions. Sarah’s search grows more desperate and she starts to mistrust everyone she knows – and she’s right to.
Someone saw everything on that fateful day seven years ago. And they’ll do anything to keep the truth buried.Hhhmm, maybe not the best book to read before I set off on holiday to the seaside with my young family - but then hey, isn't that why secretly we love this type of story?! I have admired the cover of this book ever since it first made its appearance on social media - it's very eye-catching and full of impact.
This book also comes with some impressive endorsements from other writers such as Clare MacKintosh and Claire Douglas; I mean, they know their stuff, and so it's no surprise when I tell you - they are not wrong!
The novel alternates between the two voices of Sarah and Isla which is always a great way of creating tension and structuring a good story. The sub heading of 'day one' followed by a time for Sarah's sections also adds to the tension as we count up the hours that Jacob, her son, has been missing and the fear that something more untoward has happened mounts. It's like the reverse of a ticking bomb but works just as well. I took to Sarah straight away. Her honesty, her concerns and her sense of helplessness over her parenting skills and relationship with her now teenage son was very relatable and immediately makes the reader feel sympathetic towards her.
"On the odd occasion that Jacob does confide in me, I feel like a desert walker who has come across a freshwater lake, thirsting for closeness."
There is a lot about motherhood in this novel but this is also a novel about friendship and what happens to that friendship when life changing events come between you. In chapter one we see the tension within Sarah's family and then it ends by revealing a further tension between herself and an old friend, so the stage is set on both fronts.The next chapter shifts to Isla, Sarah's best friend, and goes back to 1991, generating more suspense and creating a sense of something more threatening.
"It was a girl's wish, that's all. Beach huts next door, long summers spent on a sandbank. But neither of us could know that our lightly cast dream would come true - or what it would cost us both."
Isla's chapters begin and end with italics which often capture a thought, comment or observation which sounds like a whispered threat or throws in another hint or clue to the reader that we shouldn't rush to trust either of these characters. Isla's chapters sow more seeds of intrigue and reveal more twists about the past and about the relationship between the girls.
What I liked about this storyline is that although it starts with one harrowing event and there is one deep traumatic event from the women's past, it also starts with one little secret. I always enjoy a book that shows just how much things can spiral out of control or culminate from one little thing.
"We flit around the subject, never quite brushing the edges of it, like moths scared of getting too close to a flame."
It starts with something that happens between the girls one summer when they are still young; it starts with a boy, it starts with something that they both pretend isn't something. What Clarke does then is explore how this something that seemingly isn't a issue, is actually an issue. The novel then becomes about secrets, resentment, jealousy and love.
This is a compelling read. Jacob is missing and as the hours tick by the sense of danger and fear about what might have happened to him gradually rise towards a nail biting conclusion. At the same time, the truth behind the girl's friendship - or the hidden emotions that are bubbling away - also copy this increasing rise in tension as things come to a head. The twists and turns about Sarah and Isla are as compelling as the search for Jacob and Clarke captures the dynamics between the girls really effectively. Just when we think we have something worked out, Clarke drops another detail, another revelation, another complication. The last section of the book is real edge of your seat stuff as the plot rattles along towards its dramatic finale.
I recommend this book and it would be a great summer holiday read.
Last Seen is published by Harper Collins on 29th June 2017.
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