Ten Terrific Thrillers Featuring Missing Persons
I love a good abduction story—or even a book where someone has gone mysteriously missing. Some books begin with the disappearance and other books begin with the reemergence of the person who has vanished. Either way, the questions remain the same: where were they? Who took them and why? What happened to them? I’m always reading with bated breath to find out. Here are ten of my favorite thrillers revolving around missing persons.
- Lost Girls by Angela Marsons
In the third installment of Marsons’ brilliant DI Kim Stone series (which can be read as a stand-alone), two girls are kidnapped for ransom. But here’s the catch: only one of the girls will be returned. The kidnapper pits the two girls’ families against one another. The family who pays the most for the return of their daughter gets her back. I’ve been reading in this genre for decades and this is one of the most clever and original premises I’ve come across. Follow DI Stone as she tries to find the kidnapper before all is lost. This is a nonstop thrill ride you won’t forget.
- The Body Reader by Anne Frasier
Detective Jude Fontaine was held captive for three years by a sadistic kidnapper. This haunting novel takes place after her escape, as she tries to put the pieces of her life back together and find out what really happened to her. Her unique insight into crime from the perspective of a survivor rather than an investigator comes into play when young women start dying. Frasier’s exquisite characters and insight into what it means to survive something truly horrific drive this story to its shocking conclusion.
- Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
One of Slaughter’s fantastic stand-alones, Pretty Girls is a complicated book. At first all the pieces seem disconnected: a teenage girl has gone missing in Atlanta. For Lydia, the disappearance hits too close to home. Not only does she have a teenage daughter, but her sister, Julia, vanished decades ago. Lydia’s other sister, Claire, the wife of a millionaire, has just witnessed her husband’s brutal murder. Lydia and Claire have been estranged for years but after Claire discovers some questionable stuff on her late husband’s computer, she reluctantly turns to Lydia for help. What follows is classic Slaughter: a deep, dark tumble into the rabbit hole of depravity stretching back twenty years—to Julia’s disappearance—and reaching to the upper echelons of society. It’s astonishing how masterfully Slaughter ties every detail together in this masterpiece.
- The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton
Twenty-two year old Reeve LeClaire spent years in captivity as a young girl but now, with the help of her therapist, Dr. Lerner, she is trying to manage her PTSD and put her life back together. When another abducted girl, Tilly, is recovered alive and recounts having gone through an ordeal similar to Reeve’s, Dr. Lerner enlists Reeve’s help to mentor the young girl. But the more that Reeve delves into the girl’s account, the deeper she is drawn into the criminal investigation. She knows better than anyone how predators work and she’s determined to help find this one. Norton’s talent is best showcased in the way she delves into the psyches of Reeve and Tilly. A taut, exceptionally written book.
- Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
Laurel Mack’s life has been on hold since her teenage daughter, Ellie went missing without a trace ten years ago. When she meets a single dad, Floyd, she is blindsided by the connection she feels with him and his daughter, Poppy. As things progress with Floyd and Laurel finds herself drawn deeper into his family life, she starts noticing some things that seem off about Floyd and Poppy. When she is with them, there are strange reminders of her missing daughter, but how can that be? I loved this book so much. I’m a sucker for an abduction story, and this one is unlike any I’ve read before or since. I never saw any of the twists coming. Absolutely brilliant.
- The Last Child by John Hart
Thirteen-year-old Johnny Merrimon’s family life fell apart a year ago when his twin sister went missing. He has devoted his life to trying to find her, but his investigation puts him on dangerous ground. Johnny finds himself adrift in a world of toxic adults who will do anything to protect their secrets. When another girl goes missing in Johnny’s small town, all hell breaks loose. This is one of my favorite books of all-time. I’ve read it many times. Hart’s writing is breathtaking. You’ll feel like you’re right there for this wild ride.
- Room by Emma Donaghue
Told from the perspective of five year-old Jack, Room is a captivating look inside the mind of a child born in captivity. Jack’s mother was kidnapped many years ago and forced to give birth to her son in a small shed in her abductor’s backyard. All Jack has ever known is the shed where he and his mother are kept—until the day they make a daring escape. Fascinating, imaginative, and gut-wrenching, this book will stay with you long after you’ve finished it. This is a book other that writers wish they could have written.
- The Longest Silence by Debra Webb
This title is part of Webb’s awesome Shades of Death series but can be read as a stand-alone. Eighteen years ago, Joanne Guthrie was one of three women kidnapped and held captive by a serial killer. Joanne and one other woman lived and were recovered alive, but what they had to do to survive haunts Joanne and informs every facet of her life. When more girls are taken in a similar manner, Joanne returns to the place where her own trauma took place to help the FBI solve the case. The Longest Silence is a fresh and original take on the kidnapped woman trope. It wasn’t at all what I expected which is precisely what made it so thrilling. A fantastic and enthralling read.
- The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
Naomi is a private investigator who specializes in missing children. Intuitive and determined, she solves seemingly impossible cases. She is driven by the fact that large parts of her childhood are missing from her memory. Each case is personal to her. When Madison Culver’s parents hire her in a last-ditch effort to find their daughter, who went missing from a Christmas tree farm three years earlier, Naomi can’t say no. Denfeld’s writing is lush, and her careful unpacking of this tale is a master class in storytelling. The Child Finder is a magnificent, beautifully told story of loss, identity, and hope—and at the same time, it’s an intense page-turner. The Child Finder is not just an amazing read, it’s an experience.
- Leave No Stone by LynDee Walker
LynDee Walker is one my new favorite authors. In Leave No Stone we meet Texas Ranger, Faith McClellan. She’s a strong, intelligent, compassionate female protagonist that you’ll want to follow anywhere. In this book, she’s on the case of a young single mother who disappeared without a trace one evening after leaving work. McClellan can’t shake the sense that something larger is at work in the woman’s case, and she’s right. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on what’s going on, Walker plunges you down another deliciously creepy path. This book will keep you gripped till the last page.
Lisa Regan is the USA Today & Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Detective Josie Quinn series as well as several other crime fiction titles. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a Master of Education degree from Bloomsburg University. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, daughter, and a Boston Terrier called Mr. Phillip. You can find out more about her and her work at www.lisaregan.com