Another taut suburban thriller from Fielding (Whispers and Lies, 2002, etc.), this one a psychological exploration of a mother whose daughter disappears.
On Tuesday, Cindy meets friends for lunch so they can discuss movie picks for the upcoming Toronto Film Festival, goes to her niece’s bridal fitting, has supper with a surprisingly charming blind date. She has no idea that her morning spat with daughter Julia would be their last, for as the narrator ominously opines, “great calamity, like great evil, often springs from the womb of the hopelessly mundane.” Julia, a selfish and hard 21-year-old beauty, showed up at her big audition with a famed Hollywood director, but failed to return home that Tuesday night, or the next night, or the next. Cindy is understandably frantic, imagining the worst—so easy to imagine, since the worst is the subject of every popular TV show and film—wondering what happened to her elder daughter. There are a few suspects: the director; Julia’s ex-boyfriend, a writer who’s taken naughty photos of Julia and written a grisly tale of torture about her; Duncan, the boyfriend of Julia’s younger sister Heather; and Ryan, Cindy’s next-door neighbor, a handsome architect with a colicky infant and a suicidally depressed wife. Cindy accuses and confronts everyone, knowing that as each day goes by there is less and less chance of finding Julia. She silently berates herself: she is a bad mother, she drove Julia away (just like when the teenager chose to live with her father), only she can save her daughter. Fielding is a skillful storyteller, but all the fine-tuned details do little to save this otherwise compelling tale from its own ending, an intentionally “surprising” and “shocking” finale that nullifies the previous 350 pages. Akin to the shopworn “it was all a dream” ploy, this about-face simultaneously cheats and hoodwinks readers of a true catharsis.
Fine work almost to the end, then a bitter disappointment.