It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.
The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.
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.
When I started All the Missing Girls, I had done so thinking it was YA. I had only read the synopsis and I had read Miranda’s YA books before so I went into it thinking it was similar. Upon reading the introduction, I was intrigued by the idea of a reverse narrative – a majority of the plot is spooled out backwards, like Day 15 to Day 1. Since this is a mystery about the disappearances of two girls (well, adults really) in a small town and Nic, who is back to settle some matters and leave for good.
Now, normally I hate stories that involve the protagonist moving back to her hometown, losing herself in nostalgia and reminiscing about the times she spent there as a teen. It is my one pet peeve about adult fiction plots, and the only thing that kept me reading despite this was the fact that it was a mystery, and a psychological (on part of the reader, not the characters) thriller. Also, maybe a little about the reverse narrative, I admit. Because I was interested in how a mystery can be told backwards, when you usually have characters discovering things along the way that guide their actions, and you (the reader) following the trail of clues. At first, I admit, I was having a headache (no, literally, a headache) keeping track of what happened the day after and how the day before’s events tied into their actions. Mid-way, though I left that because I realized she really was unraveling the plot in reverse – to get to the present, you had to know what happened on the days previous and that was where the whole mystery lies. Because the first half is mostly the aftermath of the events and even Nic shields us from pretty much everything that happened days and a decade before, right until the last quarter of the book.
If I go part by part, I would say that the last quarter of the book definitely had most of the action. Before that it was Nic giving us characterization in scraps, using anecdotes from a decade ago to set up the motives for the characters. It made the first half drag on, and you need a lot of patience to get through it. Even later on, the pace is quite slow, lost in the past and memories and Nic’s musings about life in a town, or her paranoia over someone lurking in the woods. To be fair, the last part of the book did try to make up for most of this, with some unpredictable reveals and wrapping up the plot very nicely. But that first part, as well as my whole skepticism over the ineffectiveness of investigations in the modern era (just do a freaking DNA test, guys!) held me back from granting that final star.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Simon & Schuster, via Edelweiss.