I’m really delighted today to be part of Bookouture‘s Books-on-tour once more, this time sharing my review of The Girl in the Missing Poster by Barbara Copperthwaite: published on 23rd February, it’s now available via Amazon for kindle, in paperback and as an audiobook, and also via Apple, for Kobo and through Google (and currently just 99p on all e-book platforms). My thanks to Bookouture for inviting me to join the tour and for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley), and to Noelle Holten for her ongoing support.
You’ll know already that I rarely visit the darker side, but there’s a very small group of author friends whose books I struggle to resist – Barbara’s kept us all waiting a while for this one, but it’s so wonderful to see her back, and at the top of her form. When I shared news of the republication of Flowers for the Dead – you’ll find the post again here – I reminisced about my long love affair with her books, and I won’t embarrass her by doing so again. You’ll rarely find an OMG or WOW in any of my reviews, but Barbara’s wonderful books always have the power to make me sorely tempted – I was really excited about this one, and knew I wouldn’t be disappointed…
24 June, 1994 – Nineteen-year-old Leila Hawkins runs from her father’s birthday party into the stormy night wearing her sister Stella’s long red coat. Some say she was crying, others swear they saw her get into a passing car. Nobody ever saw her again.
Present – This time every year, on the anniversary of that fateful night, Stella decorates the small seaside town she grew up in with pictures of her beautiful missing sister. But after twenty-five years, is it even worth hoping someone will come forward? Perhaps the upcoming documentary will spark people’s memories by reuniting all the guests who were there the night Leila went missing.
As old friends gather and long-buried secrets begin to surface, the last thing Stella ever expects is a direct response from someone claiming they took Leila. They want private details of Stella’s life in return for answers. But as the true events of the night of the party play out once again, who is lying? And who is next?
From the bestselling author of The Perfect Friend, this absolutely gripping psychological thriller will keep you up all night and leave you sleeping with the light on. If you loved Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train and The Wife Between Us this book is for you!
Can you imagine what it must feel like to lose a twin – and even worse, an identical twin? There’s really no escape – every time you look in the mirror, the one you’ve lost is looking back at you. And when you have no idea what actually happened, or who was to blame – Stella’s obsession to uncover the truth becomes entirely understandable, and entirely compelling. She’s not a wholly sympathetic character – a bit tetchy and abrasive, antisocial with sharp edges, resistant to trusting others and forming new relationships. But I have to say I absolutely loved her – she’s also brave and fierce, with a strong sense of right and wrong, quick to action without considering the consequences, but entirely driven by the need to understand what happened on that stormy night twenty-five years ago with such devastating impact.
I very much liked the story’s construction – the filming of a Netflix documentary about her twin Leila’s disappearance, extracts from the transcript interspersed introducing the various characters involved in the night’s events, along with the opportunity to encounter some of those same individuals in the present day with that constant questioning of the truth of their accounts, and the way memories might have been distorted by time. The documentary also serves to widen the cast list, bringing new human contact and relationships into play, along with significant changes to Stella’s life.
She’s astute at reading people – while her speciality is understanding animal behaviour (and I particularly loved her relationship with her own dogs – so much more reliable than people), it gives her insights into the way humans behave too, whether they can be trusted, whether they’re telling the truth, and whether they’re a source of danger. The story builds quite slowly and steadily, establishing the key characters, sometimes diverting into side threads that illuminate them further – but focuses, turns, and the pace escalates when Stella is contacted by someone who claims to know everything about the night that changed everything and, ignoring the danger (as she often does), she pursues it to its uncertain conclusion.
The storytelling is quite excellent, and the author’s writing has never been better – an intriguing and well drawn cast of complex characters, a compelling narrative drive, a satisfying number of red herrings and diversions, unexpected twists and turns, even some nice touches of humour. It’s difficult to tear your attention away from Stella herself, but there were a number of other characters I really enjoyed – particularly Mary, her mother’s friend with a rich fund of showbiz stories and a few long-held secrets of her own, the source of much of the humour and moments of lightness, and a particular tour-de-force. Euan, the documentary maker who becomes increasingly central in her life, is a complex and intriguing character too – Stella is understandably reluctant to trust him, and there are times when you become equally unsettled.
The tension is palpable throughout the book, the pacing perfect, keeping you on edge as Stella explores the possible leads and likely perpetrators, her emotional response keeping you entirely involved and invested. The story’s climax is quite superb, tense and gripping, with more than a few moments that have your heart racing – and the resolution, when it finally comes, is satisfying and entirely believable. Highly recommended by me – I loved every moment.
About the author
Barbara Copperthwaite is the Amazon, Kobo and USA Today bestselling author of psychological thrillers Invisible, Flowers for the Dead, The Darkest Lies, Her Last Secret and The Perfect Friend.
Her writing career started in journalism, writing for national newspapers and magazines. During a career spanning over twenty years Barbara interviewed the real victims of crime – and also those who have carried those crimes out. She is fascinated by creating realistic, complex characters, and taking them apart before the readers’ eyes in order to discover just how much it takes to push a person over a line.
Her first book, Invisible, was ‘totally gripping, and scarily believable’ according to Bella magazine. Its success was followed by Flowers For The Dead, which was the Sunday Mirror’s Choice Read, beating Lee Child’s latest offering. ‘Will have you looking over your shoulder and under your bed… Original, gripping, with a deep psychological impact,’ their review read.
The Darkest Lies came next, published by Bookouture, and became a USA Today bestseller. The follow-up, Her Last Secret, hit the Number 1 spot on Kobo. The Perfect Friend is a No 1 Kobo and Amazon best seller.
When not writing feverishly at her home in Birmingham, Barbara is often found walking her two dogs, Scamp and Buddy, or hiding behind a camera to take wildlife photographs.