The Missing by Jane Casey

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The Missing by Jane Casey

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: Compelling thriller with well fleshed-out characters and a tight plot.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 496 Date: February 2010
Publisher: Ebury
ISBN: 978-0091935993

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In 1992, Sarah Finch's twelve year old brother Charlie says to her Tell mum I'll be back soon.

Sixteen years later, his family are still waiting to find out what happened to him. Now in her twenties, Sarah is teaching at a local private school while looking after her uncaring mother, who since Charlie's disappearance has slid into alcoholism.

Trapped in a job she doesn't enjoy, fighting off the attentions of a loathsome colleague, and still living with a woman who seems to despise her, Sarah thinks life is bad enough already. Then she's told that one of her pupils, a twelve year old girl called Jenny Shepherd, is missing, and stumbles on the student's body while out running. As the investigation into the death goes on, Sarah is drawn to both the current case, and to newspaper reports of her own family tragedy, but this arouses both suspicions and unwanted attention…

Despite being Jane Casey's debut novel, this thriller reads as if it had been written by an experienced hand in crime fiction. The plot is compelling, and for the most part fairly believable, although I had slight reservations about an ending which seemed to be a bit too convenient in many ways. However, this detracts only slightly from an otherwise excellent storyline, and it's hardly one of the worst offenders when it comes to realism in crime fiction. The twin narratives, the main one of the present day and the secondary one of flashbacks to the days, months and years following Charlie vanishing, work really well, as we gradually find out more and more about how Sarah and her mother ended up in the situation they are currently in.

The book is incredibly pacy, with Sarah stumbling on Jenny's corpse midway through the first chapter, and from then on the story never slows down. However, apart from an incident in the middle of the book and the aforementioned ending, it's not particularly violent – the thrills come from the psychological aspects of the plot in the main, as Sarah grows aware that she's being watched, and tries to deal with both cases and a new love interest.

Another particular strength is Casey's characterization - while a couple of characters, such as the headmistress of Sarah's school and a nosy journalist, slide close to cliché, the majority of them are superbly drawn, especially Sarah herself, her mother, and the two policemen in charge of the investigation. Sarah's narration is superb, with her voice in the flashbacks changing gradually as she grows up and learns more about the world around her.

Overall, this is an intriguing read which any genre fans will no doubt devour, and which marks Jane Casey as a definite author to watch out for in the future.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

For another psychological thriller about the death of a schoolgirl, try Raven Black by Ann Cleeves.

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