Missing persons stories appear in the news all too frequently, capturing the attention of the nation with a multitude of questions. Where did the person go? Is the person safe? What happened and why? Whether it’s the manhunt for Brian Laundrie amid the swirling questions of his fiancée’s death or the past well-publicized kidnappings of Patty Hearst and Elizabeth Smart, or the still-unsolved disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, cases involving missing persons have seemingly always captured the attention of the nation as we anxiously await and hope for positive news. Lately, my local news has dealt with the tragic endings for Gabby Petito and Mia Marcano, both young women who lost their lives all too soon. Readers are often drawn to the theme of missing persons, as evidenced by the abundance of books with a missing person as the core theme. GONE GIRL was recently one of the bestselling books of the decade, featuring the missing person theme. Let’s delve into a few other books featuring this same theme.
LAST SEEN ALONE by Laura Griffin starts out with an abandoned car and a pool of blood. The car, registered to Vanessa Adams, offers little clues and Vanessa isn’t anywhere to be found. Detective Brandon Reynolds is determined to find out what happened to Vanessa, suspecting her case is a murder. His only clue is the business card of attorney Leigh Larson, who specializes in cases involving revenge porn and stalking. The search for Vanessa is on, as Laura Griffin takes readers on a dark, twisted path into a world where relationships have turned dangerous and sometimes downright nasty. Readers will relish the twists and turns, even as we all cringe at just how ugly some people can be.
In a different variation on the missing persons theme, James Patterson and Bill Clinton collaborate on THE PRESIDENT’S DAUGHTER, a taut political thriller centered around a kidnapping. Former President Matthew Keating has been defeated for his second term, thus losing some of the Secret Service protection around his family. A terrorist takes advantage of this and now the hunt is on for Matthew’s teenage daughter, Mel, as the nation watches the events unfold. THE PRESIDENT’S DAUGHTER is fast-paced with tension building on every page. You’ll hold your breath waiting to see if Mel is brought home alive!
IF I DISAPPEAR by Eliza Jane Brazier is a unique twist on the missing persons theme as it centers around Rachel Bard and her fictional podcast devoted to the topic of missing and murdered persons. IF I DISAPPEAR chronicles Sera Fleece’s search for Rachel when Rachel’s podcast suddenly goes silent. Sera tracks Rachel to her home, the Fountain Creek Guest Ranch. The area is isolated and Sera searches for clues even as she listens over and over to Rachel’s now abandoned podcast. It’s hard to describe IF I DISAPPEAR without revealing spoilers, but Eliza Jane Brazier puts a different spin on the theme and crafts a tale that is both haunting and chilling.
Alyssa Cole’s WHEN NO ONE IS WATCHING offers perhaps the most chilling perspective I’ve ever read on the missing persons theme, as she tackles the issue of gentrification and how easily long-time residents of a neighborhood can disappear overnight. Sydney Green has returned home to her old Brooklyn neighborhood, but the residents around her are quickly changing and new faces are appearing, many who act strangely. Theo is one of Sydney’s new neighbors, but unlike many of the other wealthy white residents moving into her traditionally Black and Minority neighborhood, Theo tries to befriend Sydney and even offers to help her research a historical walking tour she’s working on. Is something more sinister going on or is Sydney descending into paranoia? Alyssa Cole offers readers a disturbing tale that incorporates current and very relevant social justice issues along with some lesser-known history into a downright scary and far too realistic thriller of just how easy it is to make others disappear.
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON by David Grann is a true crime book focusing on the mysterious deaths of members of the Osage Nation in the 1920s. Grann’s nonfiction book is a great accompaniment to the fictional tale by Alyssa Cole, as it shows all too easily how people can disappear and be murdered in the name of money. David Grann’s focuses on the investigation of the disappearances and murders as the Reign of Terror decimated lives. This is a relatively unknown and yet very vital part of history and just demonstrates how easily history can be swept under the rug when it’s not pretty.
There are so many other books, both fiction and nonfiction, that focus on missing persons. Elizabeth Smart penned MY STORY about her ordeal, while Patty Hearst cowrote EVERY SECRET THING/HER OWN STORY about her kidnapping and subsequent involvement with the Symbionese Liberation Army. THE COLD VANISH: SEEKING THE MISSING IN NORTH AMERICA’S WILDLANDS by Jon Billman may appeal to those intrigued by the Gabby Petito/Brian Laundrie searches.
One book I’m anxiously awaiting is HER NAME IS KNIGHT by Yasmin Angoe, in which the main character is kidnapped as a child and later becomes an assassin. What are some books with a missing persons theme that you have enjoyed? Any you are looking forward to reading?
Debbie Wiley is a Fresh Fiction senior reviewer. For more articles and reviews, please visit her Fresh Fiction page.
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