It looks like I’m entering into my next mystery/thriller phase, and this time Lexie Elliott’s The Missing Years kicked it off. I came across this recently-published book a few months ago, and was instantly transfixed by both its title and its cover. There’s something mysterious and intriguing about both, and they make you imagine a hundred different directions the story could go. Of course, I bought it on the spot.
The Missing Years focuses on Ailsa Calder, a woman who has just inherited a large Scottish house – her childhood home – following the death of her mother. Well, she inherited half of the house, at least. The other half belongs to her father, who’s been missing for 27 years. Ailsa can’t legally sell or rent out the house until her father is officially presumed to be dead – which, after nearly 3 decades gone, will be an easy enough, if time-consuming, process. In the meantime, Ailsa and her younger half-sister Carrie will be staying in the house, known as the Manse.
But as soon as they arrive, Ailsa gets the unsettling feeling that she’s being watched. Strange things start happening, too, things that she can’t verify actually happened and things she can’t really explain. Why do dead animals keep showing up on her property? Why won’t live animals go anywhere near the Manse? How can she explain a creepy nighttime experience that her sister somehow slept through?
Added to these befuddling events and Ailsa’s growing confusion and concern is a large cast of characters, and each seems to be hiding something, holding a grudge, or just plain weird. Some are up-front about their apparent dislike of Ailsa, while other seem too nice to be true.
Throw in a dash of fantasy and a fair bit of mystery and The Missing Years is a winning book. Is the Manse haunted? Does it really bend time? What actually happened to Ailsa’s father all those years ago? There are a lot of questions swirling around and keeping your interest piqued.
The setting plays a big role here, and it sets up The Missing Years beautifully. Who doesn’t love big, haunted mansion set in the Scottish countryside? We also get a hint of local folklore and a huge helping of Scottish slang, fully immersing the reader into this eerie Edinburgh suburb.
The Missing Years is a quietly spooky book. It feels oddly calm, even though there’s plenty going on. Some scary events happen, but we also see a lot of things that are unsettling… but could be reasonably explained away. Ailsa starts to worry about her own mental state, setting her up as a somewhat unreliable narrator. Is she just imagining things? Are her perceptions of others accurate, or is she missing something? And as a journalist, her inquisitive mind keeps the questioning and pondering going.
This novel is captivating, more in an internal way than a constant-action-on-every-page way. It’s a bit of a psychological thriller, a bit of a mystery, and even a bit of a family drama that teases out relationships between siblings and long-lost family friends. It offers a perfect balance between them and makes for a deep connection to the characters and the story.
If you’re like me, you’ll love The Missing Years. You’ll also, like me, probably want to pick up Lexie Elliott’s first novel, The French Girl, next! She’s poised to go onto my list of favorite mystery/thriller writers, and after reading The Missing Years, she may make yours, too.