Local Girl Missing is a tense psychological thriller. This is the second novel by Claire Douglas. Her earlier work, The Sisters, was one of the best selling debut novels of 2015.
If you enjoy psychological drama and suspense, this could be a good choice to load on your Kindle or pop in your holiday suitcase. It’s a pacy, page turner with plenty of suspense and drama. Part ghost story, part psychological drama, it catches your interest from the first page and keeps you guessing to the end.
The story is about possessive friendships. It is set in a Somerset town called Oldcliffe-On-Sea. It’s a place where seagulls squawk early in the morning and there’s a smell of fish and chips in the air. It’s a faded seaside place, a claustrophobic town where everyone knows everyone.
Francesca Howe, “Frankie” to her friends, grew up in the town. Her parents owned a hotel and she and her friend Sophie worked there as teenagers. The girls spent a lot of their free time on the town’s decrepit pier. They drank cider, swapped ghost stories, fancied the same boys. Inevitably, there were jealousies. There were also some dark secrets.
Local girl missing
The novel opens on dreary afternoon when Frankie gets a call on her mobile phone. She recognises the caller’s voice from the past. It’s her best friend’s brother, Daniel. He tells her that a body that has been found on the beach and he thinks it’s his sister, Sophie because the body is wearing a shoe that matches trainers Sophie wore the night she disappeared eighteen years earlier.
People think Sophie fell from the pier and drowned. If she did, Sophie wasn’t the first because Frankie and Sophie’s friend Jason also lost his life from the pier.
When Daniel has to identify the body, he wants Frankie with him. He’s sure that that the body is Sophie because of a shoe that matches the ones Sophie wore the night she disappeared. So, Daniel asks Francesca to return to Oldcliffe-On-Sea. He wants her help to find out what happened all those years ago. Frankie agrees because, like Daniel, she wants to know. She’s also glad of an excuse for a few days away from her partner Mike.
Daniel arranges for Frankie to stay in an apartment. It’s a lonely place and she’s not altogether happy with it. But it’s only for a few days, so she agrees to stay and together they start asking questions. But as they pry into the past, it seems like everyone is suspicious and there are secrets everywhere.
The action flips back and forth between 1997 and the present. Francesca is the present day narrator while Sophie narrates the past. As their stories unfold, it becomes clear that they share some dark secrets from the past. Not all of the characters are likeable but that doesn’t take away from a strong plot. More and more questions crop up as the story unfolds.
And the questions don’t just concern events from the past. For example, where did Daniel get Francesca’s mobile number? How did Mike find the address of the apartment? Who is crying baby that keeps Frances awake at night? Who is sending her anonymous letters? And who is the mysterious hooded woman that she spies on the pier?
In the end, there aren’t answers for all of these questions but short chapters and a strong plot make Local Girl Missing a pacy and enjoyable read. A good choice for holidays.
Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas is published by Penguin. Disclosure: I received a review copy via Netgalley.