Review : All The Missing Girls

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Author : Megan Miranda

Publication Date : October 2015

Publisher(s) : Simon & Schuster ( US )  &

Corvus ( UK )

When the suspense / detective fiction genres stayed simple , we had a crime or a string of crimes  , a detective and a good number of suspects . Sometimes these detectives came with their own sidekicks who will be the faithful chronicler / comic relief and sometimes bring his / her own accidental observations to the table which would help the sleuth to identify the perpetrator of the crime(s) . Then one sidekick proved that the detective needs to keep an eye on the person behind him too – one of the early books in the genre to feature an unreliable narrator . Then our crime fiction writers pounced upon it and now it has been done to death .

Once in a while , a writer is game enough to try something unusual in the way a story is told . And if the book becomes a bestseller , it would become yet another latest literary trope that several subsequent releases would implement . Megan Miranda has tackled an interesting narrative technique in her debut novel and has done it really well – the narrative traces the storyline in reverse : from Day 15 to Day 1 . Sounds interesting right ? ? I am waiting to see how this newest narrative technique picks up .

Here ‘ s brief summary of the story line –

Nicolette Farrell receives a letter from her father – ” I need to talk to you . That girl . I saw that girl ‘ . ‘ That girl ‘ is Corinne Prescott , her best friend who disappeared without a trace ten years ago . Nicolette left her hometown after Corinne ‘ s disappearance  and lives in Philadelphia . She returns home , concerned that her father ‘ s dementia has worsened or has he actually seen Corinne .

Then , another young lady disappears , almost to the day of the anniversary of when Corinne vanished . The townspeople relive Corinne ‘ s disappearance once again – searches are conducted ; everyone becomes a suspect . . . but there is no sign of the missing girl .

My thoughts on the book :

Nicolette is the narrator here and one can see what happens when the author goes with the first person narrative from a non –  sleuth character : The narrative has too much domestic drama rather than the sleuth action . I wouldn’t mind it if the story had a good pace though . . . Unfortunately , that was not the case here .

Nicolette ‘ s narrative comprises chiefly her teenage memories ( understandably ) –  the dynamics in the friendships , the drama , relationship troubles and almost everything in between about her teenage years .  While Megan has played well with the plot points involving teenage psyche and even the psychological make – up of the characters in the present , Nicolette going on and on about her feelings then and now sometimes becomes too irritating . Then , there is the ” capture the moment ” writing where Nicolette points out every insignificant thing in the scene . While the hyper-realistic approach might work for the literary fiction / contemporary fiction genres , it slows down the pace and ( at-least for me ) it was really frustrating .  Only Megan’s pretty good writing kept me turning the pages .

A humble suggestion to the new crop of authors who feel a book must have 300 + pages to qualify as a book :

All this exposition of the characters’ psyche in addition to the real life drama is good only when the drama doesn’t become melodrama ( at-least by the standards of the suspense genre ) with detailed descriptions of what the character actually is feeling / might be feeling  .  Few genres like suspense could do very well without long – winded and flowery descriptions and metaphors coined by you .

After navigating through the torrent of drama in Nicolette ‘ s life , it is somewhat difficult to appreciate the really good ending . There were few scenarios where I also felt the characters did not react consistent with their characterization .One of my earlier reads also had the same problem of too much distracting stuff – coincidentally that too had a sighting of a girl who had been missing  for a long time .

Some suggestions to the new crop of crime fiction authors who feel a book must have 300 + pages to qualify as a book ( especially for newbie ‘ s who are right now banging away at their keyboards to write the next Gone Girl or the next Girl On The Train :

All this exposition of the characters’ psyche in addition to the real life drama is good only when the drama doesn’t become melodrama ( at-least by the standards of the suspense genre ) with detailed descriptions of what the character actually is feeling / might be feeling  .  Few genres like suspense could do very well without long – winded and flowery descriptions and metaphors coined by you . I would like to quote Stephen King here –

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one in your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day…fifty the day after that…and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s—GASP!!—too late.” 

It has become sort of a trend nowadays for crime fiction writers to fill up the pages with too many details of the characters , I wonder why . . .

A final word –

Also this needs to be a one sitting read so that you don’t get confused by the reverse narrative . When you go for multiple sittings ( like I had to , unfortunately ) the reading experience won’t be very great . However , it is a superb storyline and for a debut author to experiment with the narrative technique and pulling it off successfully , it is really remarkable .

You can pick this book if you are ready to give it enough time . If you want a racy read , then this wouldn ‘ t be a good pick . If you have already read this book , how do you feel about this book ?

Is there something in the post you disagree with ? Feel free to write about it as well in the comments section . . .

Until the next review then . . .

The Unexpected Guest by Agatha Christie ( novelized by Charles Osborne )

downloadThis is a novelization by Charles Osborne of a play by Agatha Christie of the same name . This is my first audio book by the  ” inimitable ” Hugh Fraser as a lady had described the narrator in her comment . This was my introduction to Hugh Fraser and I am not aware of his reputation .

( Just now googled to the person who has been praised to the skies  for the narration of an audio book – if there are any Hugh Fraser fans , please put down my ignorance to having very little zero idea about actors from other countries  who had started their careers  before 1990 s  . . . Can ‘ t say I know several from Bollywood also . . )

* Review starts here *

Plot summary :

Michael Starkwedder has run his car into a ditch on a foggy night . He visits a nearby house in the isolated spot where he finds the dead body of an invalid man and a woman who holds a gun and confesses to the murder . He gets to know that the couple are the Warwicks – Richard Warwick , an ex big – game hunter and his wife ,  Laura Warwick . On getting to know more about Richard Warwick , Starkwedder decides that a beautiful woman like Laura should not languish in prison even if she had committed the crime .

So , he masterminds a drama , for the benefit of the police and the other inmates of the house . Laura goes with his plan and they lay the blame upon a man named MacGreggor from Richard ‘ s past , whose son had been run over by Richard .

So , what happens next when the police come into the picture ? Do they discover the drama being staged by the duo and unmask the real killer ? Or do Laura Warwick and Michael Starkwedder dupe the police also successfully ,  as they did the other inmates of the house ?

My thoughts on the book : 

Halfway through the book , having read several Christie creations over the years , I had actually predicted who the murderer was correctly except that I fell for the red – herrings quite badly when they came . However , with the big reveal scene , Christie again managed to surprise me with the string of events  . Charles Osborne has nailed the Christie tone – the narrative could have been from Christie ‘ s pen for a reader who is not aware of the fact that is a novelization of Christie ‘ s play by another  writer [ Osborne has however retained the dialogues from Christie ‘ s script for the play ] . With multiple suspects for whom Christie has supplied with enough motives to kill the victim ,  the reader is once again treated to a solidly plotted closed – circle mystery from Christie .

Yes , the narration was really good by Hugh Fraser . . . With just an audio recording time of 3:31:26 , it can be easily completed with a single sitting . The voices of the different characters were distinct that the reader would have had  no difficulty in identifying which character was speaking , even if the man had read the script of the play . . . On the whole , it was a very satisfying first – time audio – book experience  .

However there are a few observations I would like to record :

  • Only Christie ‘ s characters are daredevils who are game enough for an entanglement with the police to the extent that he is ready to manufacture evidences and fabricate stories because he wants to get a suspect off the police radar and SUCCEEDS in doing so easily  .  Is this the author taking a sly dig at the competency of the police force ?
  • A random stranger becomes  almost a part of the murder victim ‘ s family during the investigation  , because he had witnessed a man running from the house in the dark leaving behind the murder weapon  . . . ( I mean , why would the police detain a man for more than a day if he had not seen the face of the murderer except for procuring the murder weapon dropped by the murderer ? Why doesn ‘ t he get into the car once his questioning is over and leave the place ?  )  . I could not come to terms that a man easily becomes a guest in a house  and the police not getting suspicious about it . . . Again , it boils down to the same question : Is this the author taking a sly dig at the competency of the police force ?

Scenes like these are somewhat fantastic and would have been trashed if it had been written by another writer who does not have Christie ‘ s reputation . He or she would be told off as a writer who manufactures fantastic scenarios to drive the plot . But for Christie , the readers are happy not to question any of the events and allow her to tell the story her way . This is not an isolated instance of some fantastic – plot – elements inclusion , but still , Christie ‘ s unequaled storytelling  and the way she keeps the readers  guessing till the last  15 minutes never let her down .

Rating : 3. 5 / 5

If you have already read the book , tell me your thoughts about the book in the comments section below . . . Is there something in the post you disagree with ? Feel free to write about it as well in the comments section . . .

For those who want to check out the audio-book , here is the link

Until the next review then . . .