Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas

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RATING: 3/5

BLURB: “Twenty Years Ago. Twenty-one-year-old Sophie Collier vanishes one night. She leaves nothing behind but a trainer on the old pier – and a hole in the heart of her best friend Francesca.

Now. A body’s been found. And Francesca is drawn back to the seaside town she’s tried to forget. Perhaps the truth of what happeed to Sophie will finally come out. Yet Francesca is beginning to wish she hadn’t returned. The people she remembers have become strangers. And everybody seems to have something to hide. What are they not telling her – and why? Someone knows the truth about that night twenty years ago. But finding out could cost Francesca everything she holds dear: her family, her sanity and even her life…”

REVIEW: One of my best friends lent me this book after I said how much I had enjoyed reading ‘The Girl on the Train’ (which she had also lent me), and said she wanted to see what I thought, as she had found this book somewhat disappointing. Upon reading ‘Local Girl Missing’, I can’t help but agree that something is lacking in this novel, which has the potential to be brilliant but instead just seems frequently unbelievable and even laughable.

‘Local Girl Missing’ has a split narrative telling the story of Francesca (Frankie, as she is better known) in the present day and her best friend, Sophie, whose diary entries are used to make up her chapters in the weeks leading up to her disappearance. Frankie has returned to her childhood hometown of Oldcliffe at the request of Sophie’s brother, Daniel, who believes that he is close to finding the identity of Sophie’s killer after the police unearth new evidence in the case. Sophie’s disappearance had not been regarded as a murder, but Daniel’s pleas convince Frankie to rent out an apartment in Oldcliffe in order to help Daniel with his investigations. As soon as Frankie arrives in the apartment, strange things seem to occur; despite Daniel’s assurances that the other apartments in the building are unoccupied, Frankie is disturbed in the night by the sound of a baby crying, receives menacing and accusing notes, and is convinced that Sophie’s ghost is following her around. Meanwhile, in Sophie’s diary entries, we learn of her often complex relationship with the clingy, possessive and spoilt young Frankie, who has serious jealousy issues and resents Sophie’s intense, romantic relationship with Leon, a local heartthrob. We also learn of the biggest problem facing Sophie in the weeks leading up to her disappearance – Frankie’s Dad, Alistair. After a mistaken kiss, Alistair pursues Sophie relentlessly despite her relationship with Leon, stalking her, threatening her and making declarations of love. The situation quickly escalates and when Sophie is left pregnant after Alistair rapes her, her situation becomes increasingly desperate. These parallel stories combine to lead us up to the climax of the novel, in which the identity of Sophie’s killer is revealed both in the present and in the past. I will not reveal this twist, because it is one of the parts in the book that I did think was done well and which remained a real surprise to the reader, with very few hints throughout the novel that could have led the reader to such a conclusion.

My issue with the book, however, was that it was both clumsy and rushed at times. The plotline itself was fantastic and I was gripped, wanting all along to know what happened – yet, many parts of the plotline could have been taken much further and this would have added greatly to the suspense of the novel. I did feel that the storyline of Sophie and Alistair needed more context and could have been developed much further, for example, and some parts of Frankie’s story seemed rushed, though I don’t know if this was due to the atmosphere of panic that the author was trying to create around Frankie as she grows increasingly terrified and paranoid. The ending of the novel (after the brilliant revelation of Sophie’s killer) was, I felt, ridiculous, and did actually make me laugh aloud, which I do not think was the author’s intention. I had enjoyed the revelation hugely and felt disappointed with the way in which things turned out.

I would still recommend this novel due to the brilliant plot twist, and would be interested to hear if other people found the ending as unrealistic as I did – unfortunately, it ruined the novel for me, but up until that point I had been enjoying it immensely.

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