Friday Book Whimsy: Local Gone Missing

Local Gone Missing, by Fiona Barton, is one of many police procedurals I have read this summer. Police procedurals can be tricky — they can be complex and interesting if done right; if flubbed, they can be darnright confusing. Local Gone Missing, I’m afraid, was in the latter category.

Ebbing is a small town that overlooks the English Channel. Like many such towns, weekenders can double the population during the summer season. Elise King is a detective with the local police force, but has taken a leave of absence because she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is nearing the end of her leave when trouble takes place at an unpopular town music festival sponsored by one of the wealthy weekenders. Two teenagers overdose on Ecstasy, one fatally. If that’s not bad enough, one of the popular town citizens goes missing.

Though still unofficially on leave, Elise is challenged by her elderly neighbor Ronnie to join her in trying to find Charlie, the missing person. It soon becomes clear to Elise that things are not what they seem among many of the citizens of Ebbing. There is Charlie’s wife, who would just as soon see him dead so that she could have the life insurance policy. Dee is the local cleaning lady who, because her job is one that is taken for granted, overhears much and often knows more than even the police.

The plot has potential, but unfortunately, the characters are flat. Furthermore, I was seriously confused much of the time because of the number of characters, their complex relationships, and the fact that some of the chapters are “Before” and some of the chapters are “Now.” Perhaps it’s just my simple mind, but there were times when I had to back up to be reminded who some of the characters were.

I am not one to continue reading a book that I’m not enjoying. The plot of his novel, however, was interesting enough to keep my going until the end. The ending, however, was disappointing enough to make me regret the time I spent reading the book.