A woman disappears
One moment, Selena Cole is in the playground with her children and the next, she has vanished without a trace.
A woman returns
Twenty hours later, Selena is found safe and well, but with no memory of where she has been.
What took place in those missing hours, and are they linked to the discovery of a nearby murder? (Goodreads)
When two investigations get underway in the space of a day, it seems like too much of a coincidence for them not to be linked, with The Missing Hours by Emma Kavanagh aiming to find out what happened in the time between them.
The first case is delegated to Leah Mckay, and regards the disappearance of Selena Cole, a regarded psychologist working in the field of kidnap for ransom. She built up the business with her husband, and it involves her coordinating ransom terms with kidnappers, mostly in overseas territories such as Latin America. However, for the past year she has been grieving for her husband, who died in a terrorist attack in Brazil. Since then she has been distant and struggling to bring up their two daughters, but would she really have walked off and left them in the park? With two girls of her own, Leah can’t see how this is possible, and is sure there is more to the case.
Within a few hours, Leah’s brother, Finn, is called to investigate the discovery of a body in the countryside, something which never really occurs in their jurisdiction. This means the whole station is on high alert, especially when it turns out that the victim is Dominic Newell, a local solicitor who was familiar with the police force. He has been stabbed, with no signs of a murder weapon and no obvious enemies. Of course, the first step is to question his partner, Isaac, but Finn is doubtful that he is guilty and starting to clutch at straws.
Everyone is sceptical of Leah’s theory that the incidents are linked at first, but Finn soon starts to believe her when certain things just don’t add up, and certain people begin cropping up in both investigations. Could Selena have disappeared to commit the murder? Could the same person be behind both crimes? Or is Leah getting too close to this case with her personal connection to the children, throwing herself into finding answers to avoid facing her own domestic problems.
I thought that the way these two different investigations are linked was intriguing and I wanted to know what the common thread was between them, especially when Selena claims never to have heard of Dominic before. It is only by Leah’s dogged determination that the connection is then made, as she continues to investigate Selena’s disappearance even when she is called to the murder team. I liked witnessing Leah’s side of the novel, as I enjoyed learning about the world of kidnap for ransom, and how experienced Selena and her husband were at negotiations. It helps that there are case file reports interspersed between chapters, giving a deeper look at examples of how the kidnap trade works.
As a character, I thought that Leah was built up well and could get a good understanding of both her personal and professional life, as there are a few scenes demonstrating the tension between her and her husband. It is her maternal instinct to protect her children that drives her to work out why Selena would walk away and leave her own, and this drive was admirable, even if Leah does develop her own doubts about whether she is doing the right thing. She is acting against the will of her boss, but I thought that she was strong to act her instincts, even though this did sometimes mean relying on Finn’s superiority to pull strings.
Even though we don’t get to learn as much about him, I found that I liked Finn more than Leah, as he has an easy manner with people and a sarcastic wit that provided a very subtle humour. All we know about him is that he left the forces only to be left by the woman he loved, with no information given about how he lives now. We don’t know if he longs for a relationship, or if he is content to throw himself into work, striving to prove he was worthy of his recent promotion. He now ranks above Leah and this is his first time leading such a high profile case, with him feeling the pressure to deliver an arrest and close the case.
As the plot unfolds, there are a number of twists, turns and red herrings to keep you guessing about what really transpired during the missing hours. However, I wouldn’t say that there was a particularly shocking moment, as the big reveal was somewhat anticipated and felt a little forced. The investigation ran too smoothly for my liking, as there was never much doubt about finding Dominic’s killer, as they never hit any real snags. This removed some of the tension for me, as in both perspectives they are always finding their next clue and not struggling for leads or coming up against any difficult witnesses. Nevertheless, this is a pleasant enough book to read and is sufficiently different enough from other mysteries to give it an edge.
A mystery novel that blends a disappearance case with a murder investigation, this book begs the question of what happened in the hours between the two crimes and questions whether they could possibly be related. The investigation is well thought out and the dual perspectives of the detectives ensure that the plot moves along quickly, with there also being case files along the way to give examples of how kidnap for ransom operates. This is an easy book to lose yourself in for a few hours if you’re a fan of the mystery genre.