Local Woman Missing is a twisty mystery that’s also rather sad. It flips back and forth between two time periods: 11 years ago, Shelby Tebow goes for a run and never comes home. Shortly after, Meredith Dickey and her six-year-old daughter Delilah also disappear. Fast forward to the present day, and Delilah is back. She’s spent the last decade in a pitch-black basement, barely cared for by a cruel and abusive couple, and her return sparks renewed interest in the events of the past.
There are quite a few potential suspects behind the disappearance, and a whole bunch of intriguing clues like a professional connection between Shelby and Meredith, and a series of threatening text messages sent to Meredith’s phone.
I didn’t guess the big reveal at all, which is testament to Kubica’s skill at giving us some truly viable red herrings. But more than that, I admire how Kubica presented the big reveal — the author used the perspective of one of the other characters to frame the villain in an almost sympathetic light. There is a lot of imagery of the villain being like a cornered animal, frightened out of their wits, and willing to do whatever it takes to survive. So while their actions are, by all measures, horrible, Kubica’s treatment made me feel mostly just sad that they felt the need to do all that at all.
That being said, near the end of the book, the villain admits they “fucked up” and “never meant to hurt anyone,” and another character shoots back, “You hurt everyone.” (emphasis in the original) And it’s true. No matter how sympathetic Kubica makes the villain, the author also succeeds at taking us into the hearts of other characters, mostly the narrators (Shelby, Meredith, Delilah, Meredith’s son / Delilah’s brother Leo, and their neighbour Kate), but also their loved ones. I love how Kubica uses Leo’s perspective to show us how hard the years have been on his father Josh, and how much her captivity has impacted Delilah. Leo shares his mother’s empathy and intuition, and both his and Meredith’s chapters are especially revealing of the other characters.
Overall, a twisty and gripping mystery. TW for child abuse, as there are scenes of Delilah’s captivity and even after she’s rescued, there are some heart breaking moments where Leo tries to help her cope with her newfound freedom.
Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.