Where the Missing Go
When Kate takes a call on a helpline, it turns her fragile world upside down.
Kate Harlow is a volunteer who works on a missing persons helpline in Cheshire. She has done since not long after her daughter became one of those missing persons. The helpline gives Kate a reason to keep going, particularly since her husband left and set up home with another woman.
Then one Saturday night, while her fellow volunteer steps out for a while, Kate gets a call from a girl who calls herself Sophie. Despite the appalling reception, Kate knows that this is not one of the many prank calls. The girl on the other end of the line has asked Kate to tell her parents that she is safe. Their names are Kate and Mark Harlow. And Sophie sounded scared.
Where the Missing Go is a little gem. Emma Rowley has written this in the first-person present tense, which gives a pressing and intensely intimate feel to the story. The first part of the book is from Kate’s point of view. The latter pages bring in another view-point.
The plot is intriguing and sufficiently twisted with reasonable foreshadowing that it is not easy to work out what is going on too early. In places Rowley pushes one potential theory under the readers’ noses too hard, making it clear that there is going to be a twist. Although I did suss the reveal quite early on, it in no way detracted from the pleasure of reading.
The early chapters are clearly setting up the rest of the story. In some ways, they clunk and foreshadow indiscreetly, but they also provide the opportunity to see how isolated and lonely the main character is. And how she blames herself for her daughter running away.
Kate's character is well developed, so although her backstory is predictable (her husband has left her, she has had a mental breakdown, she takes tablets) and a little convenient for forcing her to investigate alone, she does feel vibrant and real. She is fragile, flawed and sufficiently lost in her own world of grief that she doesn’t know which way is up any more. The other characters are shallower but correct in their portrayal as antagonistic to Kate and her needs.
There is not much sense of general place. It could be Anywhere Town. However, there is enough detail that the immediate milieu is atmospheric. Dialogue is honed and realistic and the writing overall is unpretentious and accessible with a good balance of introspection, dialogue and action.
This is a solid page-turner that pulled me in and kept my interest from the first page to the last. The ending is a little cheesy, but Rowley tied up all the loose strings. She’s an author to watch out for.
Reviewed 13 October 2018 by
Kati Barr-Taylor lives in her
‘cosy pigsty’ in the Dordogne. She satisfies her literary cravings by
translating, writing, editing and reading.