‘He said that they’d let me go on purpose. That they could easily find me if they wanted to. He said that they didn’t want me. That I was too much trouble. He said if I went to the cops, he’d know. If I told Sonya, he’d know. If I talked to friends or teachers, he’d know. He told me to pretend it didn’t happen. He told me to consider it a compliment, that I was too strong. His last words to me were, ‘Just forget’.
Troubled teen Faith Marsden was one of several girls abducted from Crawton, a country town known for its picturesque lake and fertile farmland. Unlike the others, she escaped, though sixteen years on she still bears the emotional and physical scars.
Zoe Haywood returns to Crawton to bury her estranged mother Lillian, who has taken her own life. As she and Faith rekindle their high-school friendship, they discover notes left by Lillian that point to two more young women who recently disappeared from Crawton. But Lillian’s confused ramblings leave them with more questions than answers.
As Faith and Zoe delve deeper into the mystery, they become intent on saving the missing women, but in doing so are drawn into Auckland’s hidden world of drugs, abduction and murder.
And then Faith decides to confront the mastermind – on her own.
A brilliant opening prologue, the story opens in a foster home in 2001.
Faith Marsden had been in worse places, but a late night escapade finds her in somewhere much worse…
Sixteen years later, Zoe Hayward, a teacher at a boys school, is unfairly sacked because of an incident with one of the boys. Her mother, who she hasn’t seen in years, dies and Zoe must return home to arrange the funeral, so she is unable to stand her ground over the dismissal.
Zoe is just doing her duty regarding her mother but gradually becomes involved in the mystery of the missing girls in her hometown. The authorities seem to want it all to disappear, but she isn’t about to let that happen.
Fast paced in the beginning, the thread of this story alternates between the characters and their chapters, which vastly increased the tension.
Such a complicated and skilful plot, you really need to be on your toes with this one. The story unpeels like an onion, each layer full of frustrating clues and red herrings. By the time I was just over halfway through, the tension had built to an almost unbearable level.
The story slowly descends into a gruelling hell as the author describes the extent of the missing girl’s trauma with painful precision.
The climax of the story begins when Zoe makes an important discovery, triggering one of the best finales I have read in a while…
Her eyes began to burn from staring unblinkingly into the dark. She shut them tight again. Her hands wandered further, cautiously, off the edge of the mattress. A concrete floor, chilled and unforgiving. She stretched her hands out either side. One side touched hard wood. Shelves maybe? The last time she remembered any contact with people was sitting in Garth’s office at the Crawton Tavern, having a few drinks after work on Sunday, with … who?
She stood on shaking legs, the dark playing with her balance. She hardly knew which way was up, and a whimper escaped her lips. The sound, desperate in the stillness, chilled her. She edged forward, hands in front of her, hesitant, not knowing what to expect. After she’d counted six steps from the mattress her hands found a door. She had performed the same actions days or hours ago. She knew what the result would be but grasped the handle anyway, daring to hope, and turned it.
She stumbled to the side and her foot kicked something. A bucket? It skidded across the room. She knocked her elbow on what she guessed was more shelving. Rubbing at it the tears came, wretched, choking sobs that echoed around her prison. Her head thumped as she tried desperately to piece together what had got her here. They’d taken her like she knew they would. She’d told herself what she’d overheard was nothing, even when Tania disappeared. Deep down she’d known she was in danger.
But there hadn’t been anywhere else to go.
Thank you to the author and to #RBRT for my #free review copy…