About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Friday, May 8, 2009

#43 - Losing You

Ahh. Every now and then, a quickie is just what I need, and Nicci French's Losing You (St. Martin's Minotaur, 2008) fit the bill quite nicely. The characters are cardboard, the plot has more red herrings than a bin of Swedish fish, and it's fast-paced enough that I finished 293 pages in a single evening ... after our fantabulous dinner guests went home. (OK, I did read the first 40something pages at lunchtime.) If any among my (ahem) vast readership are looking for a fun early summer read and enjoy a good thriller, this one will do ya.

PSST! Check out the explosion in my Hazel's Bookshelf list. 3 guesses as to where I was this morning ...

All righty, then ... back as promised with the Real Review. Losing You opens on main character Nina Landry's 40th birthday, and truly, her life couldn't get much better. (OK, maybe she'd rather not have greeted her surprise party guests in a tatty old robe, but aside from that.) After a harrowing split from her ex, Rory, a year ago, and an ill-advised fling with then-but-no-longer-separated neighbor Joel, she's made a home for herself on Sanderling Island (supposedly 60 miles from London, though I couldn't figure out if it really exists or not). Once the ill-timed party is over, she and her 2 kids are off to the airport with her new sweetheart, Christian, for a long-awaited holiday in Florida.

The only fly in the ointment is that Nina's daughter, 15 year old Charlie (nee Charlotte), still hasn't returned from last night's sleepover ... even though she organized the party in the first place, and even though she still has to deliver her newspapers and pack before they leave. As the afternoon unfolds, Charlie's cell phone goes unanswered, and her friends seem clueless as to her whereabouts, Nina's annoyance turns to worry and then panic. Neither her neighbors nor the police seem overly concerned, insisting at first that Charlie's just being a flighty teenager, and later that she's run away on purpose ... but Nina doesn't believe it. She sets out to solve the mystery and find her daughter on her own, convinced that every second lost to the police officers' methodical investigation is putting Charlie in graver danger.

From there, the story proceeds more or less as you'd expect. Nina hunts down lots of leads, but most don't amount to much. She uncovers lots of surprising information about Charlie along the way, most of it fairly typical of the stuff teens tend to hide from their parents: a mysterious boyfriend, alcohol-fueled "hookup" parties, and so on. She steps on the police officers' toes more than once, and finds some friends and neighbors more helpful than others. Her 11 year old son Jackson becomes clingy and fearful ... understandably, as his sister's vanished and his mom keeps fobbing him off on any neighbor she can find as she runs hither and yon to track Charlie down. There's a whodunit you probably didn't suspect, and an ultimately happy ending.

While the basic storyline was interesting enough, the writing was a bit sloppy, which ended up making the plot less gripping. Maybe I just didn't read carefully enough, but the guilty party's identity seemed to come out of left field. Nina does come up with a motive, but it's not clear whether it's correct or just the product of an overactive, desperate imagination. Likewise, we never learn whether the police are really the bumblers Nina seems to think they are, or if they've been quietly closing in on the real solution all along. I'd also expected at least some of the leads Nina pursues to end up having something to do with what's really happened to Charlie. As far as I can tell, they don't ... so you're left feeling less like French steered you down a dark, circuitous road that eventually led to the culprit, and more like she couldn't make up her mind where to go in the first place, and headed off for one destination before abruptly deciding to turn around and go somewhere else instead. It was interesting to ponder how most of the "clues" Nina uncovered turned out not to be real clues after all, but just typical adolescent secrecy, but we never learn enough about Nina and Charlie's relationship for this to really resonate. The characterization was also a bit lacking, but that's almost to be expected in a book like this, so it seems nitpicky to complain about even for me.

In short, a decent weekend or airplane read, especially if you want something that doesn't require your full attention and won't haunt or distract you once you get where you're going. Wait for the paperback, though ... it's not one you'll bother coming back to, and for me, isn't worth the hardcover price or the bookshelf space to own.

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