“No one ever just disappears.”
I finished the audio book for All The Missing Girls today after hearing about it from some members of my book club. Let me preface this by saying that I wanted to like this book. The premise sounded interesting and I read a few 5 star reviews which really got me hyped-up for it. I’ve been tearing through mystery novels lately, as opposed to my normal habit of obsessing over one science fiction or fantasy novel after another, and I was hoping this would prove to be a new favorite. It was not meant to be.
The main character, Nicolette, Nic for short, goes back home to deal with family matters surrounding her elderly and ailing father. She had left her hometown ten years earlier after the disappearance of her best friend, Corinne. Shortly after her return, another young woman, Annaleise, goes missing. The story is told reverse chronologically, counting down to the day Annaleise disappeared, with flashback scenes to the events of ten years prior. Structurally, this seems like it could have been interesting. In practice, it felt like a mess and a gimmick to distract from the plot itself, which simply wasn’t that interesting.
None of the characters feel particularly fleshed-out, which makes it difficult to care about the potential dangers or resolution in the plot. Nic ends up tangled up in a love triangle with her fiance and her old high school boyfriend, both of whom feel like cardboard cutouts, with one labeled “city boy” and the other “country boy,” so I’m a bit confused as to why I’m meant to be emotionally invested in that tension. Authors, please take note: enough throwing in a love triangle for the sake of having one. You don’t need one. Truly.
All the Missing Girls has been compared to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Don’t believe it. The Girl on the Train was more interesting on a second reading than this one was on the first try.
If you’re looking for an engaging mystery novel, I’d recommend The Dry, by Jane Harper, which has some similarities to this one thematically, but was much more artfully done. In The Dry, Aaron Falk returns to his hometown to investigate after the death of a childhood friend, Luke. Through flashbacks, we learn of the disappearance of Aaron and Luke’s mutual friend, Ellie, and the suspicion cast on Aaron which prompted him to leave town years ago as a teen. Aaron Falk’s investigation eventually reveals the truth behind what happened to both of his childhood friends. The best news is that The Dry is part of a series; Aaron Falk returns in Force of Nature.