Jane Casey's debut novel, The Missing, is an intriguing mix of murder mystery and psychological thriller that explores the nature of personal strength and victimhood.
Psychological Thriller, Story of Murder, Victimhood, Abuse and Guilt
The Missing is a story narrated by Sarah Finch, a young teacher living with her alcoholic mother. Sarah’s older brother, Charlie, went missing when she was a young child and she was the last person known to have seen him.
Her mother has believed for the following sixteen years that Sarah knew more and blames Sarah for the unresolved mystery of Charlie’s disappearance.
The resulting tensions broke up the family and may have led to Sarah’s father's death. Sarah stays to support her mother. In return all she gets is abuse and no thanks that feed her sense of guilt which traps her in the family home where her mother maintains her missing brother’s room as a shrine.
Sixteen Years On and Another Child Goes Missing
Jenny Shepherd, a twelve year old girl from one of Sarah’s classes, goes missing and Sarah is again one of the last people to have seen her. Matters get more complicated when Sarah finds Jenny’s body whilst out for her evening run as an escape from her drunken mother. When Sarah starts to get too close to the police investigation things get even more complicated.
The story twists and turns through complex relationships developed before and during the intervening sixteen years. It uses a mix of current narrative around the girl’s disappearance and chapters that flashback to the earlier disappearance of Charlie. The Missing raises difficult questions about the nature of community, families and what goes on behind apparently respectable front doors.
The character of Sarah Finch is well developed as the story progresses. Other key players are also well rounded in their characterisation and the rest are sketched in sufficiently well for their role in the tale. Although still a potential victim in many respects Sarah finds unexpected strength through the challenges of the investigation.
Nature of Abuse and Victimhood
As The Missing comes to its conclusion the various forms of personal torment are thrown into sharp relief. It is not simply about physical violence in disadvantaged homes but can also be emotional or psychological and take place behind the net curtains of comfortable suburbia. Indeed it can require others and even the victim to be acquiescent in the cruelty.
An Easy But Satisfying Read
The writing is easy going without being trivial and the story line is credible and builds gratifyingly to its finale. The Missing is a satisfying read with which to while away a journey or a wet weekend. For quicker readers it may only provide distraction from a wet afternoon.
Jane Casey’s debut novel, The Missing (2010, ISBN: 978-0-09193-599-3) is published by Ebury Press in paperback at £6.99
First appeared on Suite101