The old Victorian pier was once a thing of beauty. It’s also where twenty-one-year-old Sophie Collier vanished eighteen years ago.
Francesca has spent the last twenty years haunted by the disappearance of her best friend. But when she receives a phone call from Sophie’s brother saying that a body has been found, she knows she can’t keep hiding from what happened. With her own secrets to keep, Francesca doesn’t relish the idea of digging up the past or returning to Oldcliffe. But it is time to go back to where she grew up, and it looks like she isn’t the only one there hiding truths.
Claire Douglas first caught my attention last year, when I read her debut novel The Sisters, as part of my book club’s theme on ‘twins’. Douglas has done it again with her gripping new release, a psychological mystery titled Local Girl Missing.
Local Girl Missing is a story split in two distinct time frames. Twenty years ago, Sophie Collier, a young woman of twenty one, with her whole life ahead of her, vanishes after leaving a local club. The only indication of her final whereabouts is a single sports shoe, believed to be Sophie’s, caught on a derelict seaside pier. It tears many close to Sophie apart, from her lover Leon, to devoted brother Daniel, to Frankie, Sophie’s best friend. Twenty years later, old wounds surface when human remains believed to be Sophie’s, emerge near the waters of the seaside town of Oldcliffe. Frankie, now a successful businesswoman in London, vowed never to return to Oldcliffe. A call from Daniel, Sophie’s brother, changes Frankie’s feelings and she returns to Oldcliffe on a mission to piece together the truth as to what really happened to Sophie.
Local Girl Missing is a book that has an immediate impact on the reader from the very beginning, delivering both a chilling and intriguing opening scene. I soon settled into this book and was subsequently taken on a thrilling ride throughout the novel. Local Girl Missing is best described as an unsettling, unpredictable and unputdownable read. This could be down to the style of narrative structure. Douglas cleverly divides her narrative between present day, with Frankie conversing with her friend, the missing Sophie. She then splits the other half of the narrative and devotes it to Sophie’s story from the past in 1997. Although I enjoyed both narratives, which alternate and drip feed information relating to Sophie’s fate, I really connected to Sophie’s 1997 story thread. I feel this is due to the setting that Douglas works hard to create for her readers. Being of similar age to Sophie and Frankie in 1997, I could easily relate to their lives and also living near a similar seaside town myself, I could put myself directly into their shoes. The highlight of this book has definitely got to be the setting. I could easily picture the derelict pier of Oldcliffe and imagine the treacherous sea in which Sophie disappears. Douglas also excels at depicting her setting in Oldcliffe in the present day, her location setting descriptions are highly atmospheric. There were also many instances while reading Local Girl Missing where I got clear chills down my spine. As well as the setting, Douglas also displays strength in her creation of a whole host of characters. Each character is carefully formed and they all present themselves as somehow connected to Sophie’s fate or as potential suspects. To me, this is always a sign of a good thriller novel. I had no idea who was involved in Sophie’s final moments and if they were at all, I questioned if it was just a terrible accident or suicide. Douglas saves the best for last, blowing any of my theories out of the water, delivering a thrilling climax. It was definitely worth the wait to get the epilogue.
Local Girl Missing, Claire Douglas’ second offering, is a heart racing read. It is a novel that successfully intertwines friendship, secrecy, lies and jealously in a complex tale for readers to unravel. This is one fans of the thriller/psychological mystery genre will be sure to enjoy.