A desperate mom tracks a missing child in another of French’s spellbinders (Catch Me When I Fall, 2006, etc.).
It’s getaway time for Nina Landry and her brood—two children plus Christian, her lover. What they’re getting away from is bleak Sandling Island, 60 miles from London, and the “pinched, icy days of English winter.” They’re bound for a Christmas holiday in Florida, but now there’s a hitch. What happened to Charlie? She is Nina’s 15-year-old daughter, headstrong, unpredictable, an adolescent’s adolescent. She’d been at a sleepover, a party that had, in a blink, gone from acceptably decorous to wildly hormonal, and from which she vanished. When Nina calls the police, a well-meaning constable attempts to reassure. She’ll turn up. “ ‘Teenagers have secrets,’ ” he explains. He’s right, of course, and over the next several hours, he’s repeatedly, chillingly, corroborated as Nina delves as deeply as she can into Charlie’s personal life. But Charlie does not turn up. While her whereabouts remain shrouded in mystery, her friends profess to be clueless, the police continue to comfort and, in Nina’s view, underperform deplorably. No choice then but for Nina to pick up the slack, since it’s clear to her, at least, that something terrible has happened, that the clock is not her friend and that she herself constitutes Charlie’s best chance. Strong, resourceful and, yes, scared silly, she knocks on doors, experiences the unkindness of certain strangers—whose detachment amounts to cruelty—but at last uncovers something that matters, something frightening, true, but revealing: Charlie’s abandoned bike. The police become serious now, even more so when suddenly forced to confront the possibility that Charlie’s disappearance might be linked to an earlier disappearance—another missing teenager, a friend of Charlie’s, found murdered.
Though one or two plotlines remain dangling at the end, oh how the story grabs.