May 1983 – 14 year old Cynthia Bigge wakes up the morning after an almighty row with her father, and discovers that her entire family – her mother, father and brother have disappeared. The mystery is never solved, and for 25 years, Cynthia has to live with not knowing what happened to them. Are they dead? Alive? Did they just choose to leave her, or did some other fate befall them?
2008 – Cynthia appears in one of those hokey true-crime television shows, which revisits the mystery of her family’s disappearance, and soon afterwards, strange things start happening – a phone call from someone saying that they know where her family are; her father’s old hat suddenly appearing in their house, and other events. Is someone playing cruel games with Cynthia, or is they mystery finally about to be solved?
Apart from the very brief prologue describing the night of the disappearance from Cynthia’s point of view, the rest of the story is narrated by her husband, a high school English teacher named Terry. Cynthia and Terry have a more-or-less happy marriage, and an eight year old daughter named Grace, but the mystery of what happened to her parents and brother has haunted Cynthia for years, to the extent that when odd events occur, Terry questions Cynthia’s sanity.
If you are a fan of thrillers/whodunnits, then I’d recommend this story. Sometimes the writing is a bit cliched, and I did figure out the ending before the big reveal, but there was plenty here that kept me entertained. The writing flowed well, and I read huge chunks at a time, because I was eager to find out what happened (and if my guesses were correct). The plot sometimes veered close to being ludicrous, but I just went with it, and enjoyed it anyway. As with most books in this genre, I would not read it again, because it’s more about the destination rather than the journey, so once you know who ‘dunnit’ there’s not much point in re-reading. Terry was a decent enough narrator, although not a particularly interesting character (to me anyway), but this book is definitely more plot driven than character driven, so the fact that he did not make a huge impression on me did not really matter.
All in all, it’s not brilliant, but it’s an enjoyable diversion and I’d read more by Linwood Barclay.
(Author’s website can be found here.)