British author C.L. Taylor has penned a psychological suspense novel that keeps the reader guessing right up to the final reveal. “The Missing” has a small cast, but Taylor contrives to make everyone a suspect in the disappearance of teenager Billy Wilkinson. Just when it seems the clues are coming together, Taylor changes direction (or misdirection), pulling the reader deeper into the mystery.
The novel is narrated by Billy’s mother, Claire, a woman at her wit’s end. When she begins to suffer bouts of dissociative amnesia, she and the reader are both left to wonder at the reliability of her reporting. This is a tricky narrative maneuver, but Taylor handles it well, successfully adding an additional layer of doubt and dread into her plot.
Arguably, the book is more slowly paced than it needs to be. Coming in at nearly 470 pages, “The Missing” might benefit from a slimming down of some of its twists and turns. Given the dysfunctional relationships on display, it is occasionally difficult to maintain empathy for and interest in the mystery, and a more concise telling of the tale might go some distance toward alleviating that issue. The story gains speed as it nears its end, and the increased pace glosses over some of Taylor’s less subtle plotting machinations.
“The Missing” fits neatly into the genre occupied by books like Paula Hawkins’ “The Girl on the Train” and Fiona Barton’s “The Widow.” For me, Taylor’s novel is somewhat less successful than the former, but more satisfying than the latter.