Thursday, November 3, 2016

All the Missing Girls

You can’t go home again they say, and if you were under suspicion in a missing person investigation, you probably wouldn’t want to anyway. Megan Miranda’s All the Missing Girls protagonist, Nic, chooses to fly in the face of such wisdom and returning home after 10 years is quick to realize another hard truth, you can’t run away from your problems because you can’t run away from yourself.

From the publisher: “It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched. The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.”

All the Missing Girls was an engaging read (in that you had to put some brain power behind it), in part due to the author's original format which featured the story being told backwards (day 15 to day 1) from the point that the current day disappearance takes place. While this narrative device was unique (at least for me) and probably quite suited to a suspense novel, I felt like in this case it didn't add a new dimension to the story. In fact, I think it impeded the usual incremental build of tension and suspense which occurs in most mystery/thrillers. Despite some twists, the book never quite reached its full potential due to an at times plodding pace, a less than likeable narrator, and the bleh resolution to Corinne's storyline.

A fair to middling plot can be easily salvaged by great characters; nuanced, complex, likeable or at least relatable, but here Nic was none of the above. Readers are fickle but oh so forgiving of a book’s flaws if emotionally engaged with its characters, but I never truly felt invested in Nic’s struggles. Honestly, even the relationships, interactions and dialogue between the characters seemed contrived at times, not an organic or natural dynamic, but just a way for the author to get us from Point A to Point B. Well, I won't beat a dead horse. You get the idea, I didn't connect, care or empathize with the entire cast of characters.

All the Missing Girls could’ve stayed missing a little bit longer. I kid, I kid. No really, it was one of those middle-of-the-road books that in its averageness has a con for every pro. Original yet predictable, engaging but a little boring; the kind of book you read, finish, and forget by next week.