I was really intrigued by the premise of this book. Shaun, an Irish bookseller, learns that his Uncle Teddy didn’t die in a car crash after all, but instead went to New York to escape his homophobic family and hometown. Shaun’s search for his uncle leads him to an American missing persons cold case website, where one of the users posits the possibility that Teddy is dead after all, and that he’s actually the true identity of the cold case labelled ‘Boy in a Dress.’ The website’s users — founder Chris (Ratking1), moderator Ellie (RainbowBrite), Chris’ sometime-lover Scott (Aqualung), and former cop Pete (BobbieCowell) — all team up to restart the investigation into the case, and possibly get Shaun the answers he seeks. What they don’t realize is that the person who actually killed the Boy in the Dress is among them, posting on the site, working the cold cases, and keeping tabs on their investigation.
It’s a chilling premise. I like how Lotz explores the relationships built online, and how she acknowledges the characters’ obsessive tendencies and often sad life circumstances while still maintaining a level of respect for them. She delves into their motivations (e.g. Chris’ missing mother) and their dreams (e.g. Ellie’s unsupportive husband and somewhat-but-not-really crush on BobbieCowell). We are also told who the real murderer is fairly early on, and it was fascinating to read the chapters from that character’s perspective, and to see how they’re manipulating the investigation to protect themselves. I also liked learning about Shaun’s family and their backstory, and how circumstances led to Teddy leaving for New York in the first place.
But overall the book just moved too slowly for me. Things unfolded at a very slow pace, and while the book was only 480 pages long, it felt a lot longer. Because we know the identity of the murderer early on, and can pretty much figure out how Teddy fits into the whole situation, the thrill is a lot more about whether or not the other users of the site can figure it out and bring the murderer to justice. Despite some scenes where characters are legit in danger, the overall feel of the book is just sad and a bit sordid.
Missing Person is a very character-driven thriller, but while the characters all had their own interesting tidbits, I just wasn’t invested enough in any of them to stay interested despite the slow pace.
Thank you to the publisher for an egalley in exchange for an honest review.