By Sarah Lotz
The crime genre is a well-trodden one, so much so that anyone who reads the genre exclusively may find themselves jaded by similar storylines occurring over and over again. One way to excite both author and reader is to try and find new approaches. How about a crime novel told entirely from the prism of an online chatroom? In a modern world were many people appear to live almost exclusively online, this idea could work, but then again it may prove too tricky and an author could revert to a style they are more comfortable with.
After a previous incident, the members of online community Missing-linc.com deal exclusively in trying to uncover who missing people are and not how they became missing. However, old habits don’t die easily and when they are approached by a young man in Ireland they realise they may have the identity of The Boy in the Dress, a young man who was found murdered back in 1989. Can this chatroom group catch a killer from 30 years ago? But who is lurking online – is everyone who they appear to be?
Missing Person by Sarah Lotz has a very intriguing concept, it is a shame then that it conforms a little too much to type. The book opens online; a series of online names chatting back and forth. The dialogue is quick and mimics what you would expect. Using this throughout 480 pages and still make a coherent mystery would be very tricky. Therefore, Lotz does not bother to do this. Instead she uses the chatroom as a launch pad to meet other characters.
The online avatars are real people who span America. After settling on four main characters the story develops between them. They all investigate on their own terms, but share information online. The most interesting part of the book is how each characters represents themselves online. Even the most honest is not above a little innocent flirting. For the more sinister character, the avatar proves a brilliant disguise to steer an investigation the way they wish.
The concept of Catfishing being so fundamental to the book really lifts the story. Once the characters are drawn to meet one another this becomes less so and some of the limitations of the narrative play out. The book is actually pretty simple and hides this by the slightly complex layering of the net. Agatha Christie showed that wolves in sheep's clothing have been around for many years and Missing is just trying to sell something old as new. It is by no means a bad book and crime fans will enjoy the pacy finish. It just feels a little like more could have been achieved with the online world.
Written on 16th July 2019 by Sam Tyler .