Review: The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield

the-missing-place“Set against the backdrop of North Dakota’s oil boom, two very different mothers form an uneasy alliance to find their missing sons in this heartrending and suspenseful novel from the Edgar Award–nominated author of Garden of Stones.
The booming North Dakota oil business is spawning “man camps,” shantytowns full of men hired to work on the rigs, in towns without enough housing to accommodate them. In such twilight spaces, it’s easy for a person to vanish. And when two young men in their first year on the job disappear without a trace, only their mothers believe there’s hope of finding them. Despite reassurances that the police are on the case, the two women think the oil company is covering up the disappearances—and maybe something more.
Colleen, used to her decorous life in a wealthy Massachusetts suburb, is determined to find her son. And hard-bitten Shay, from the wrong side of the California tracks, is the only person in town even willing to deal with her—because she’s on the same mission. Overtaxed by worry, exhaustion, and fear, these two unlikely partners question each other’s methods and motivations, but must work together against the town of strangers if they want any chance of finding their lost boys. But what they uncover could destroy them both…
Sure to please fans of Sandra Brown and Gillian Flynn, The Missing Place is a moving chronicle of survival, determination, and powerful bonds forged in the face of adversity.” – Publisher Summary

Two young men have gone missing – on the same day – in Lawton, North Dakota, where the two friends work together on an oil rig. When their mothers cannot get satisfactory answers from the oil company – or the local police – they each head for Lawton on their own, intent on securing the answers to their questions about their sons. When mothers Shay and Colleen stumble upon each other unexpectedly, they decide to join forces.

The two mothers have not met before now: Colleen comes from a privileged background in Massachusetts. She has money and connections, and is skilled at communicating with the right people. Her missing son, Paul, keeps her at a distance due to her over-protective and sheltering ways. On the flip side, Shay, mother of the missing Taylor, is privy to inside information about the boys’ daily lives because of her close and loving relationship with Taylor. Shay is a single mother from the “wrong side of the tracks”; while she is brash and tends to be grating, her street smarts and determination to find Taylor make her an essential asset to the two women’s search for their sons. While Shay and Colleen have their missing sons in common, that is about it. Littlefield shines a light on the marked differences between the two throughout the novel and this provides for plenty of tension and even a little humor.

Much focus is placed on the oil companies and their practices in North Dakota, their relations with the Native Americans on the nearby reservation, and the conspiracies that have erupted within those dynamics. We are led down this path through much of the novel until offered an alternative theory much later in the book. Is it possible Paul himself did something to Taylor and is now in hiding? When the shattering truth is finally revealed, it is something that I, personally, did not see coming – and I have to say that is quite unusual for me.

The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield is a mystery meant to shock and awe. I feel it fell short of this. The relations and bickering between Shay and Colleen appear forced and stereotypical much of the time, which grew to be tiresome for me. I was also a little bored with all of the oil company talk, although I understand that it was a major part of the plot so it could not be helped. The “page-turner plot twist” near the end of the boys’ ordeal was such a reach from the rest of the mystery that it did not ring true to me. It just didn’t all tie in together for me; Littlefield could have done a better job of this and I, for one, would have been much more captivated. Please don’t just take my word for it – The Missing Place is loved by many, many more readers than those who don’t. Based on the huge discrepancy of opinions on this novel, I would definitely have to say this is one case where it’s every man (and woman!) for him/herself! Go and get you some, y’all!

The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield. Read it today!

2.5 stars

Source: Gallery/Threshold {via NetGalley}

 

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