The Missing Girl

Written by Jenny Quintana

Review written by Carole Tyrell

Carole Tyrrell worked in the theatre for nearly 10 years and was always fascinating by the way death and the supernatural formed many of the greatest and most enduring works. She has read crime fiction for many years and enjoys the broad range of the genre.


The Missing Girl
Mantle
RRP: £14.99
Released: December 28 2017
HBK

A debut novel from a new author is always something to anticipate and to some extent, The Missing Girl doesn’t disappoint.

30 years after she ran away from the catastrophic event that destroyed her family, Anna Flores (the narrator) has returned for her mother’s funeral.  But she doesn’t intend to stay long afterwards as she has her own life in Greece. But there is her father’s antique, or junk shop, depending on your point of view to be assessed and possibly sold, as well having to sort out her mother’s possessions. 

For in 1982, Anna’s older sister, Gabriella, disappeared and the only trace of her that was ever found was her bag. 3 years older than Anna, she was beginning to assert her independence and move towards a different life.  Anna, aged 12 at the time, was trying to make sense of the change and frightened that she would be shut out of Gabriella’s life.  Why was she friendly with Martha Ellis, the school outcast?

Meanwhile a mysterious man, a Spaniard named Edward Lily, had moved into a nearby cottage in the village with his daughter Lydia.  She bore a remarkable resemblance to Gabriella.

The Flores family led a modest life with the shop, the House of Flores, extended family members visiting and an old family friend, Rita who was never off the doorstep.  But all of this was shattered by Gabriella’s disappearance.  Strangers took over their lives; gossips, TV news reporters, rumours and the hounding of a possible suspect.  Tom, the local road-sweeper, moved out of the village with his mother as a result.  All of Gabriella’s friends and enemies were questioned but Martha seemed to know more than she said. She had a chaotic home life with a violent father but also a remarkable talent in art. Anna turned amateur sleuth and visited Edward Lilly’s house to find nothing. She abandoned it after her beloved father had a fatal heart attack. Gabriella’s unsolved disappearance turned her into a ghost doomed to forever haunt her family. 

When she grew up and left to go to university Anna’ was glad to become someone else; where she was no longer known as the girl whose sister vanished.  In fact few people know that she even had a sister. 

When going through her mother’s possessions Anna discovers with a shock that Edward Lily had a strong motive for coming to live in the village. Especially after she finds evidence of another devastating family secret.  He has recently died and wants the house clearance to be handled by the House of Flores.  Again Anna has to confront the past when she finds a portrait of Gabriella in amongst the items and slowly she opens Pandora ’s Box again to find out at last what happened to her……

The Missing Girl is deftly plotted with several twists and turns although I saw a couple of subplots coming.  I liked the depiction of Anna feeling that she was being left behind by Gabriella’s slipstream as she begins to make her own choices. Anna struggles to keep up and takes out her resentment on Martha.  The book is told partly in flashback as the action dips in and out of the present day and 1982.  The latter is convincingly portrayed with little details such as a the Sodastream drinks maker, Our Price record stores (now long gone) and the precursor to the Ipod, the Sony Walkman.   

Martha is also a haunted person.  A talented artist who never bloomed, she still lives in her family home with all its horrible memories.  What does she really remember of the events of that day?

I wasn’t entirely persuaded by the climax as I didn’t feel that there had been enough clues or suspense leading up to it and so felt like too big a leap from what had gone before.  Also what was the purpose of Lydia within the story?

The Missing Girl led to an upbeat ending with all the loose ends tied up and for a first novel it felt confidently written by an assured author.  However, I feel that Ms Quintana is talent to watch.



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