Book Review: The Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana

The Missing GirlAbout the Book

When Anna Flores’ adored older sister goes missing as a teenager, Anna copes by disappearing too, just as soon as she can: running as far away from her family as possible, and eventually building a life for herself abroad.

Thirty years later, the death of her mother finally forces Anna to return home. Tasked with sorting through her mother’s possessions, she begins to confront not just her mother’s death, but also the huge hole Gabriella’s disappearance left in her life – and finds herself asking a question she’s not allowed herself to ask for years: what really happened to her sister?

With that question comes the revelation that her biggest fear isn’t discovering the worst; it’s never knowing the answer. But is it too late for Anna to uncover the truth about Gabriella’s disappearance?

Format: ebook (336 pp.)    Publisher: PanMacmillan/Mantle
Published: 18th December 2017    Genre:  Crime, Mystery, Thriller

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My Review

As well as attending several events at this year’s Henley Literary Festival (which runs from 29th September to 7th October), I wrote recently about how I’d been inspired to create a reading list of books by some of the authors appearing at the Festival.   The Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana is one of those books.

The Missing Girl is a compelling mystery but also an absorbing and believable depiction of a family coping with the disappearance of a child.  For me, this second element was the most rewarding part of the book.   As the mystery of Gabriella’s disappearance remains unresolved, it has a disturbing effect on the family.  Even more so coming as it does on top of overheard fragments of conversations and knowing glances between her father and mother the meaning of which twelve-year old Anna doesn’t understand at the time.   Anna mainly notices the hole Gabriella’s absence has left in their lives. ‘There was an emptiness, a stillness.  Gabriella had created sound.’

Alternating between two timelines – the present day and the 1980s – I thought the author did a particularly good job of recreating a sense of the earlier period.  A time when a bottle of Cinzano and a bowl of Twiglets marked a family celebration, Sunday lunch was a roast dinner (followed by roly-poly and custard if you were lucky) and a popular teenage hangout was the Our Price record shop.    I also liked the way the rather insular nature of a small village was conveyed and the spine-tingling feeling the author creates as young Anna undertakes her own investigation in the wooded outskirts of the village.

Given the sisters’ close relationship, I’ll admit I found it a little difficult to understand how Anna could have spent thirty years not wanting to find out more about Gabriella’s disappearance and Anna’s life in those intervening years doesn’t get much attention.  Nevertheless, the death of her mother does awaken Anna’s desire to know the truth – ‘Persistence, the need to know, creeping back after all those years away’ – and, luckily for her, some of the key witnesses from the time are still around.

The Missing Girl is an accomplished debut which I really enjoyed for the author’s deft handling of the dual timelines and its multi-layered story.   The author lays down plenty of tempting false trails for the reader to follow and although I (sort of) guessed one of the key twists in the book before it was revealed it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of what followed.  The solution to the mystery of Gabriella’s disappearance – sorry, not going to say!  However, I’ll admit the author wrong-footed me.

Jenny Quintana is appearing at Henley Literary Festival on 30th September 2018 (tickets still available as at time of writing)

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In three words: Atmospheric, unsettling, mystery

Try something similar…Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (read my spoiler free review here)

Jenny Quintana, author.About the Author

Jenny Quintana grew up in Essex and Berkshire, before studying English Literature in London. She has taught in London, Seville and Athens and has also written books for teaching English as a foreign language. She is a graduate of the Curtis Brown Creative writing course.  She now lives with her family in Berkshire. The Missing Girl is her first novel.                                      (Photo credit: Alicia Clarke)

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