My rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
This book was not exactly what I was expecting from the blurb but it is an enjoyable thriller that once I started I couldn’t stop reading.
It’s not perfect but for a debut novel it’s pretty good and I loved the use of a police family liaison officer as one of the main characters. It definitely adds a unique perspective and I hope there will be more in this series.
The story starts with Lesley coming home from the shops to find the alarm is off and the house empty. She thinks her 15 year old daughter Rosie is out in the garden studying but when she goes looking for her she’s not there. Starting to panic she searches the house before trying to call her on her mobile. When she finds the phone in the garden beside a dark substance she knows something has happened to Rosie and the police are called in to investigate. Has she run away, has she hurt herself and become confused or has someone taken her and why?
Lesley and husband Mack are recent lottery winners but while Mack and Rosie seem to be enjoying the money (new house, designer clothes, the latest gadgets) Lesley is uncomfortable about it and the family relationships are strained. They went public with their win so everyone knows them and almost everyone seems to want something from them. They’ve had to leave most of their old friends behind but don’t quite fit in with the wealthy either. Could the win be something to do with Rosie’s disappearance?
The story is told from three different perspectives, Lesley the mother, Maggie a family liaison officer with the police and a darker character (possibly the culprit) who seems to have a grudge against the family. Having these three different perspectives makes for a fascinating read as it lets you into the heads of victim, investigator and suspect. I particularly liked the authors use of a family liaison officer (FLO) rather than a regular detective. FLO’s don’t typically feature much in detective stories other than being called in to sit with the family while the real detectives go off and solve the crime. This book showed just how important and difficult their job is while also giving an outside perspective on the family, friends and their relationships.
Maggie herself was an interesting and likeable character. She clearly loves her job and is very dedicated to it but sometimes goes a bit beyond her remit, something she was previously suspended for. She’s caught in the difficult position of supporting the family and keeping them informed but also interviewing them and noting everything they say and do as part of the investigation. It’s a bit of a juggling act but she seems to be very skilled at it and has great instincts. What I found most fascinating about Maggie though was her relationship with lead detective Will Umpire. He’s the reason for her previous suspension but requested her on the case. Pretty much every interaction between them is awkward and a bit uncomfortable which is great to read.
As well as her difficult job she also doesn’t have the easiest personal life. She’s single but spends most of her time supporting her sister Lou, who is a single mum of three. Lou could probably be described as fairly demanding, ungrateful and unsympathetic to Maggie’s job but Maggie has a secret and that secret means she feels indebted to Lou.
Rosie’s parents, Lesley and Mack were not my favourite characters but they did come across as quite realistic and their reactions to everything that happens seem believable. Their relationship is fairly strained at times and both react very differently to the disappearance. I’m not a parent so I can’t imagine how I would feel but I could imagine the emotions they were experiencing.
The character I wasn’t so sure about was mystery man and main suspect. It’s maybe just that I’m not quite unstable enough to relate (thank goodness) but I’m not sure I totally believed him as a character. It’s difficult to say a lot about it without giving away spoilers but I just thought some of his behaviour and thoughts were a little over the top and unconvincing.
The pacing of the story is pretty much bang on and I found it quite addictive reading (I finished it in a day). There are a couple of twists but who did it is probably less the point than the investigation and the impact on the family. I had a couple of niggles about dialogue in places but overall I’d rate it a great debut novel.
I will be looking forward to more in the series as I think it has the potential to be really great. As an aside, in the unlikely event of me winning the lottery, I will not be going public.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an advance copy. It will be released in the UK on the 24th March and you can find it on Amazon here.