missing

“Thought I Knew You” by Kate Moretti

 

Book Cover - Thought I Knew You

Kate Moretti’s “Thought I Knew You,” relates the poignant story of a wife whose husband leaves on a business trip and never comes home. Imagine waiting for a loved one to walk through the door at the appointed time…and he doesn’t. Not an hour late or even a day late just because of flight delays. The key never turns in the lock.

 

Was he murdered? Is he lost? Has he walked out on Claire Barnes? What happened to him? This page-turner will keep you guessing all the way through as the life that Claire thinks she and Greg experienced together is revealed bit by bit.

 

Claire reports him missing right away, but everyone discounts her concern as unnecessary. She begins to make phone calls backtracking his movements, and the more she uncovers, the less she knows about the man she called her husband for so many years. While Claire knows something has been ‘off’ between the two of them, she is sure that his commitment to their daughters is sincere and he would not have left them behind.

 

Claire’s support system is strong: the helpful Police Detective who keeps searching, a life-long devoted friend, Drew, who picks up the pieces while the search is on, the mom that keeps the girls when Claire can’t handle any more.

 

But, as the months roll by and the search for Greg widens, Claire has time to reflect, alternately blaming herself for whatever happened and angry at the discoveries she makes. We see the layers of the marriage exposed as well as the truth of the relationship with Drew revealed, and the book intensifies in its hold on us. The ripple effect of the loss of one person changes everyone that comes in contact with the family left behind. Claire questions her own actions within the marriage a bit more, and we begin to recognize her flaws, even as she dismisses them.

 

Marriage vows are called into question and we, in turn, reflect upon what makes our own relationships tick. We feel the longing, the questioning, the justifications, the sadness of lives not fully realized. Do we compromise everything for something we think we want out of life? Does the safety in the picture of the white-picket-fence-and-two-children dictate our path? Must it take losing everything familiar in order to discover our own capabilities and the essence of who we are?

 

“Thought I Knew You,” stuns the reader with twists and turns and comes to an astonishing end with conclusions that may be shocking to some, if not heart-breaking.

 

This is a book perfect for book clubs, chock full of discussion points. I asked my adult son about some of the choices made by the men in the story and his surprising responses would spur on debates within those book clubs.

 

Moretti’s “Thought I Knew You” is exceptionally told, deeply felt. Haunting. Memorable.

 

While “Thought I Knew You” is a work of fiction, the tragic reality is that thousands of people go missing every year. Some of those missing people are homeless and nobody ever looks for them when they inexplicably disappear from the streets. All kinds of people go missing from intact homes, and though the families may search for years, no trace is ever found.

 

As sometimes happens, the true crime area of my other website (www.kerriansnotebook.com) overlaps with the case here. For more information about groups that handle a wide variety of missing persons cases, take a look at http://www.justice.gov/actioncenter/missing-person.html#persons

 

Please visit www.katemoretti.com for more information about Moretti and her moving, insightful work.

 

 

 

“My Sister’s Grave” by Robert Dugoni

 

Book Cover - My Sisters Grave

 

In “My Sister’s Grave,” Tracy Crosswhite, a Seattle homicide detective, is still investigating her sister’s murder twenty years after the fact. A paroled rapist was convicted at the time and is sitting in jail for the crime, but Tracy believes the wrong guy was put away.

 

Her 18 year old sister, Sarah, disappeared the evening following their championship shooting competition, and though a thorough search was conducted, her body was never found.  Deep down, Tracy wanted to believe there was a chance that Sarah might still have been alive. But, if not, who killed Sarah? And why? Tracy’s obsession with solving the case has even driven away her sympathetic, once supportive husband.

 

When Sarah’s body is discovered in a now dry lakebed, Tracy returns to Cedar Grove and wants the case reopened. She faces resistance from unexpected directions as people urge her to let it go, saying that the town has suffered along with the Crosswhite family and wants to move on. What had been a place of unlocked doors has become a place of anger and sadness, without trust. The more Tracy pushes for answers, the more she suspects a cover-up has been buried along with her sister for all that time, the more her own life is in danger.

 

“My Sister’s Grave” is an absorbing look at the actions of a loved one left behind, consumed with guilt that she was responsible for her sister’s death. Who could move on from that in real life? We know that Tracy should not be shouldering that guilt, but we are drawn into the story and want to find the truth as well.

 

As always, Robert Dugoni writes fully fleshed out characters, people we can root for as well as people we can despise. Dan, a childhood friend, now a lawyer living in Cedar Grove, works nicely as Tracy’s sounding board and support system when she needs it. Their personal relationship develops naturally and provides balance to the intensity of the fast-paced, mature-themed storylines and jaw-dropping plot twists.

 

How does Robert Dugoni write the women in his books so beautifully? Get inside their heads in such a believable way? I learned this summer that the man has four sisters. ‘Nuf said. 

 

He also has a knack for creating memorable settings for the climactic scenes in his books. Not to give anything away, but I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough during the snowstorm section.

 

Dugoni revealed that the idea for "My Sister's Grave" came from an actual water diversion that caused water to recede and then expose previously covered land. His mystery-focused mind went in the direction of murder and an unsolved crime.

 

This is not an addition to Dugoni’s bestselling David Sloane series, but not to worry. Crosswhite is a character from “Murder One” and Dugoni has done a terrific job of building on that persona and giving her the strong voice she deserves in order to be the lead in “My Sister’s Grave.” If you’d like to read a bit of background on the Tracy Crosswhite character and what makes her tick, Dugoni published a novella a few months ago, titled “The Academy,” that works nicely as an intro to this book.

 

With so many missing persons on record in the www.NamUs.gov database, what is fiction for “My Sister’s Grave” may be tragic truth for some grieving family out there. What drives Tracy to keep digging would be natural for most families. It’s about closure. We want a wandering family member to be okay. If we suspect that a crime has been committed, we want justice for the victim. We want to help victims of amnesia, restore them to a loving home. Our humanity wants help for the lost, and if we felt that we had anything to do with the disappearance, we would feel guilt and maybe even an obsessive need to discover the facts. I’d like to think that if I had been trapped or lost, that a ‘Tracy’ in my life would not have stopped looking.

 

Dugoni mentioned on Facebook that he is working on the sequel. Can’t wait! (It is now 15 months later, and happily for us, he has written more books in the series)  :-)

 

Read my review of “Wrongful Death” here.

Read my review of “The Conviction” here.

 

Please visit www.robertdugoni.com for more information about his work, his book signings, and the writing classes he conducts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Is This Tomorrow” by Caroline Leavitt

 

Book Cover - Is This Tomorrow

 

A sixth grader disappears in broad daylight from a 1950s Boston suburb in “Is This Tomorrow” and everyone is brought to a standstill by shock, grief and suspicion. The police investigate, but not thoroughly enough for anyone’s expectations. Even divorcee, Ava Lark, comes under scrutiny, just because she is single, Jewish, working, and the missing boy (her son’s best friend) spent time at her house.

 

Everybody that knew the missing boy, Jimmy, even in passing, is questioned without success. He seems to have vanished off the face of the earth. Neighborhood watches are organized, the woods are searched, parents walk the children back and forth to school, ‘stranger’ warnings are issued. Everyone is in denial; nobody wants to think the worst. His sister and best friend even choose to believe that Jimmy just left – that he went to a wonderful place on their ‘travel map’ – the route they had promised to take together when they got older.

 

Time passes and people adjust to the idea that Jimmy is gone. The friends and neighbors promise never to forget, to keep looking, but to most of the world, Jimmy becomes ‘the boy who went missing.’ But, not to his sister Rose, and his best friend, Lewis. Not even to Ava. Their world has been changed forever by Jimmy’s disappearance. We observe that changed world through Ava’s eyes, and then Lewis and Rose’s, in painful and insightful ways for years after the terrible day.

 

Leavitt explores the attitudes of society toward divorcees and the limited options available to all women in the 1950s and 1960s, truths still echoing today. In “Is This Tomorrow,” Ava struggles to make ends meet and feels adrift, loving her son, but not knowing how to help him or herself in a culture that perceives her as damaged goods. Lewis blames her for his father’s absence; Rose blames her own mother for not doing more to help herself after Jimmy goes missing. The ache is palpable.

 

The story unfolds as the children and the adults deal with paralyzing guilt and surprising revelations, both about Jimmy and themselves. As moments in that long ago day are relived through several character’s eyes and what-if scenarios are rehashed, we see how one person’s clueless stupidity can send a ripple of destruction in every direction. Even worse, the selfish reactions to that stupidity can cause even more harm, when kept secret for so long.

 

The children in “Is This Tomorrow” are drawn so well – their interactions, their need to belong, their missteps in social situations, their craving for an intact family. I knew kids like this in my teaching days, listened to their stories.

 

While the topics discussed are challenging and serious, there is growth and change in circumstances, as well as triumph along the way in this memorable novel.

 

Well done, Ms. Leavitt.

 

Read the review of an earlier novel, "Pictures of You," here.

Please visit www.carolineleavitt.com for the latest news about NYT Bestseller Caroline Leavitt’s work.

 

*Note from Patti Phillips:

As sometimes happens, Nightstand Book Reviews and my other website, www.kerriansnotebook.com have overlapped in this review of Leavitt’s perceptive examination of how families deal with the devastating case of a missing child.

The fact-based post “How long has your daughter been missing?” can be read at http://bit.ly/1enFF0k  

Go to http://www.namus.gov/ for more information about the U.S. Department of Justice program, a source of information regarding missing persons.