Published: 7th April 2016
Genre: Psychological Thriller
When fifteen-year-old Billy Wilkinson goes missing in the middle of the night, his mother, Claire, blames herself. She’s not the only one. There isn’t a single member of Billy’s family that doesn’t feel guilty.
But the Wilkinsons are so used to keeping secrets from one another that it isn’t until six months later, after an appeal for information goes horribly wrong, that the truth begins to surface.
Claire is sure of two things – that Billy is still alive and that her friends and family had nothing to do with his disappearance.
A mother’s instinct is never wrong. Or is it?
Sometimes those closest to us are the ones with the most to hide…
This is a book that presents a finely detailed character study as well as an intriguing mystery. Fast paced and told primarily by an unreliable narrator, it is a multi-layered story that powers on while tackling a number of challenging, and at times unsettling topics. This all amounts to a fairly compelling read.
As the title suggests, this book centres on a missing person storyline, and all of the characters’ actions take place as a consequence of that. However, the way the many aforementioned issues are explored means the plot is much more wide-ranging than you might expect in the beginning.
It places a spotlight on almost everything that results from somebody’s disappearance, and the strength of the impact this leaves on the reader is considerable. Although the book will be classed mainly as a psychological thriller, there is also a major family drama aspect to it.
The missing person in question here is 15-year-old Billy Wilkinson, who vanished after leaving the house late one evening. The book starts six months on from his disappearance, where his parents Claire and Mark are launching a renewed appeal to the public for information concerning his whereabouts.
Both parents, along with their other son Jake, are still struggling to come to terms with what has happened. Their relationship becomes strained and Claire begins to suffer blackouts as her attempts to find Billy become even more desperate. It also becomes clear that the answer to his disappearance lies close to home.
The book is told mostly in the first-person perspective of Claire. She comes across as a likeable character, but is also an unreliable narrator. Her blackouts bring about dramatic gaps in the story which leave you questioning what she may be hiding.
Dotted throughout the book are short sections made up of WhatsApp messages between two people, which are clearly significant in Billy going missing. They darken the tone and prove an effective storytelling device, yet I was slightly disappointed by some of the directions the story took, and in the end it was quite obvious who the messages belonged to. I had problems with the ending from a moral standpoint, too.
All of the characters were reasonably well developed and contained no shortage of flaws, including Billy himself. Claire was my favourite, and while many of the rest were complex, they were also unlikable.
I was instantly able to connect with the setting, as it happened to be my own hometown of Bristol! I feel that C.L. Taylor managed to capture certain parts of the city quite well, and gave the book a strong sense of place. There was just one little inaccuracy I spotted – there are NO tigers in Bristol Zoo!
Overall, this was a powerful read that went beyond the focus of a mystery to create something with real depth. I had issues with the increasingly dark tone and some of directions the plot ended up taking, but there was a lot to admire here. My third book by C.L. Taylor, and the best one so far.
There are a lot of potential triggers in this book. The first and most obvious is the missing person storyline, but the more unsettling aspects are strong sexual references, sexual harassment, and rape. There are also references to drug use.
If any of these things could cause a negative reaction, then maybe a good idea to pass on this book.
A comprehensive depiction of a troubled family and a missing person storyline. I had some niggles, but it was a mostly compelling story.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5