All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
Published by Simon & Schuster, June 2016
*** Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the advance review copy in exchange for an honest review. ***
It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama when another girl disappears, reawakening Corinne’s case and breaking open old wounds long since stitched.
Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.
We follow Nic as she leaves her comfortable life, miles from home with a great boyfriend, a funky flat and a job she enjoys, to travel back to the town she grew up in that she left 10 years ago. She sets to work clearing out her childhood home to put it up for sale. We then jump ahead over two weeks in time and find out that her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend has disappeared, bringing back memories of the disappearance of Nic’s childhood best friend Corinne – events that led her to leave home all those years ago. We then work backwards in time and unravel exactly what has happened…
This book sets itself apart from other thrillers with its unusual and ambitious structure. I did think that working backwards would be confusing, but actually it wasn’t as disconcerting as I thought it might be. However, at times I did find it a bit frustrating – so for example, Nic finds a mysterious key – but we already know where it’s for as the character has used the key to open a door in the chapter we’ve just read. So this almost reduced the tension. And I did think at times that the backwards format didn’t necessarily add much to the reading experience, other than to be a bit of a novelty. But despite my reservations, it is actually quite clever and definitely sets the novel apart from other similar thrillers.
Many of the characters in the novel are pretty unlikeable, which seems to be quite normal for modern thrillers (I’m thinking Gone Girl and Girl on the Train for similarly unsympathetic characters). But this worked well here and I found Nic an interesting – if not always likeable – character. I whizzed through the latter sections of the novel as the tension really built up and secrets from the past and present day were revealed.
Overall I did enjoy reading this, although I was a bit underwhelmed with the ending. I think the book was helped a lot by the two chapters at the end that are in chronological order and helped tie up the loose ends. The structure was interesting but I would’t be in a rush to read any other novels written backwards! It did feel like a bit more of a novelty than anything, and although it was interesting and different I wasn’t always sure it was completely necessary.