The case of a missing girl ripples through her former friends’ lives decades after her disappearance in Taylor’s (Shirker, 2000, etc.) well-crafted but oddly hollow novel.
Teenaged Caroline May disappeared from her Auckland home on a Sunday afternoon in 1979. Twenty years later, a number of her one-time classmates have yet to wholly get over it. Foremost among them is Mark Chamberlain, now a petty burglar and almost pathological loner. He lives in an apartment stacked high with stolen goods, leaving it at night to break into the homes of his Auckland neighbors, taking their things and examining them as artifacts of the city’s lives. Little surprise, then, that this sort of activity would bring him back into contact with detective Harry Bishop, the lead investigator, two decades before, of Caroline May’s disappearance. Neither has been able to move beyond the tragedy; both are still afflicted by the loss, haunted by their memories of missing posters, by the sightings, the rumors, the legends that have arisen in the girl’s absence. They are men defined by their emptiness, an emptiness that sits at the book’s core. Though only briefly present, May is the novel’s silent center—the void Taylor’s characters all find themselves orbiting. It’s a deftly constructed work and very coolly done, but sometimes the cool turns frigid. As Chamberlain skulks about the city, visiting his old classmates, revisiting the incident, slipping in and out of homes and lives, he seems all smooth surfaces and guarded nonchalance—a cipher. And the same might be said of the book itself. There’s a certain competence and slickness here that’s undeniably appealing, but ultimately, the unrelenting chill makes for an unaffecting read.
Not particularly memorable.