Published by Quercus
Publication date: February 3rd 2015
The Missing One is billed as a psychological thriller but by page 218 I’m convinced that the novel is actually about the joys of motherhood and the psychology of toddlers. Debut author Lucy Atkins spends more time on the smell of the protagonist’s small child than she does describing any other element in the novel. And the adjective used most often is “sweet”—sweet and milky, sweet and sleepy, sweet and tangy. We repeatedly read that he “toddles” and has “little star hands”. Maybe for young mothers reading the book this kind of verbiage spent on an eighteen-month-old will be reassuring and engrossing but it does nothing to build the purported suspense of the novel and at a certain point becomes annoying.
Beyond adjectival overload, The Missing One hurtles pell-mell into the action on such slender threads of premise that it not surprising they snap before the novel gets to the thick of things. Basically, Kal’s mother has just died and despite their difficult relationship she decides to take off from England shortly after her funeral to go to Vancouver, B.C. to try and learn more about her mother’s mysterious past life, as her father has no wish to discuss it. She does this largely because she has seen texts on her husband’s phone that seem to indicate he is having an affair with his ex-girlfriend. She takes their son and does not tell her husband where she is going or why. I may understand wanting to get back at the husband but hauling a toddler on a transatlantic journey with only the few items packed for a quick trip? Really? Once in Vancouver, she looks up an old friend of her mother’s, despite repeated warnings from her father that this is a dangerous and untrustworthy person. From there on in, the plot progresses as you might anticipate. Kal is the character in bad movies who, while alone in a cabin in the woods, goes into the basement to see what all the screaming is about.
For those of you who have been around for a while, you know I don’t often write negative reviews but this novel was overburdened with plot points, unnecessary details, and implausible actions, as well as the aforementioned overuse of a limited number of adjectives. Having said that, it is clear that Atkins has a great imagination. What she seems to need is an editor who can rein it in. There are aspects of The Missing One that are intriguing but like so many things in life more is not always better.