“Eric disappeared when he was three years old. Ben looked away for only a second at the grocery store, but that was all it took. His brother was gone. Vanished right into the sticky air of the Florida Panhandle.
They say you’ve got only a couple days to find a missing person. Forty-eight hours to conduct searches, knock on doors, and talk to witnesses. Two days to tear the world apart if there’s any chance of putting yours back together. That’s your window.
That window closed five years ago, leaving Ben’s life in ruins. He still looks for his brother. Still searches, while his stepmother sits and waits and whispers for Eric, refusing to leave the house that Ben’s father can no longer afford. Now twenty and desperate for work, Ben takes a night stock job at the only place that will have him: the store that blinked Eric out of existence.
Ben can feel that there’s something wrong there. With the people. With his boss. With the graffitied baler that shudders and moans and beckons. There’s something wrong with the air itself. He knows he’s in the right place now. That the store has much to tell him. So he keeps searching. Keeps looking for his baby brother, while missing the most important message of all.
That he should have stopped looking”
I don’t know why I enjoy novels set in shops so much. I won’t lie; it is one of the main reasons why I picked up this novel in the first place. The majority of the story takes place in a small town supermarket. The whole idea had a morbid charm to it. A boy goes missing while shopping with his older brother, he is never found and years later his big brother takes a job in the same supermarket he went missing from. It is an idea that sounds so brilliant on paper that I just had to check it out.
Did it deliver as well as I expected? Yes. This book is sad, it is painful and it discusses the theme of loss in a way that I had never seen depicted before. The main character is OBSESSED with his brother’s disappearance. It makes you feel sorry for him but you can also see why it makes him an unreliable character. His parents are sick of him, the police are sick of him and so is everyone else involved in the case. You might think that makes them terrible people, but you can clearly see that they are trying to do their jobs, grieving in their own way or trying to get on with their lives. They are hurting just as much as he is, but he won’t let things go. I love unreliable narrators and main characters. They can make a book a real rollercoaster. The character is so unreliable I was starting to theorise it was a horror novel at times.
The best part of this book is definitely the characters. Everyone is so damaged in a realistic way. Everyone is so layered. I think a lot of thriller novels make the mistake of making characters instantly dislikeable, everyone is a jerk and uses their tragic backstory as an excuse for it. This book doesn’t do that, it creates realistic people who make mistakes and say the wrong thing at times, but they also find time to laugh and form friendships. I haven’t seen such good characterisation in a thriller novel in a long time.
I think my only issue with this book was the pacing. I don’t know what exactly it was but it just felt like it was too long at times. There isn’t a ton of pages, and it certainly wasn’t boring, but there were times were I found myself wondering why it wasn’t done yet. A lot happens in it and it all ties up really well, but while reading it I felt like it had been going on forever. I am also not sure how I feel about the ending. As always I won’t spoil anything, but I think it will take me a long time to process what happened at the end of this one.
Mild violence, murder, mild gore, strong language
4 out of 5 skulls