- Published by Ebury Press (Random House) 2010
- ISBN 978-0-09193-599-3
- 485 pages
- Source: My local library
Jenny Shepherd is twelve years old and missing…Her teacher, Sarah Finch, knows better than most that the chances of finding her alive are diminishing with every day she is gone. As a little girl her older brother had gone out to play one day and never returned. The strain of never knowing what has happened to Charlie had ripped Sarah’s family apart.
Now in her early twenties, she is back living at home, trapped with a mother who drinks too much and keeps her brother’s bedroom as a shrine to his memory. Then, horrifically, it is Sarah who finds Jenny’s body, beaten and abandoned in the woods near her home. As she’s drawn into the police investigation and the heart of a media storm, Sarah’s presence arouses suspicion too. But it not just the police who are watching her...
As if losing her twelve year old brother when he went missing 16 years before wasn't enough, life deals Sarah Finch a cruel blow when one of her twelve year old female pupils goes missing. And then Sarah discovers the body when she is running in the woods.
From that point the novel takes on an interesting structure. Chapters about the modern day investigation are interspersed with ones beginning 16 years before. Through those interspersed chapters we learn what happened to Sarah and her family as a result of Charlie's disappearance; how the police failed to discover what happened to Charlie; how having attempted to lead an independent life Sarah is drawn back home to teach at a local school and to look after her mother.
Just as Sarah is drawn inexorably into the investigation into Jenny's murder, so she also wants to know more about Charlie and what happened to him. These double strands give the plot a really satisfying complexity, although the final denouement seemed rather gruesome, even unlikely, and a little out of character for Sarah. It also allows the author to explore issues such as the impact of the disappearance or murder of a child on those family members left behind.
THE MISSING was Jane Casey's debut novel, perhaps just a little too long, but well told.
My rating: 4.6
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Excellent review, Kerrie. I thought this a really strong debut, and agree completely with what you say about the satisfying structure of the main plot but the unsatisfying/over-violent ending.
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