Title: 99 Red Balloons
Expected publication: 24 August 2017
Book Description (Goodreads):
When eight-year-old Grace goes missing from a sweetshop on the way home from school, her mother Emma is plunged into a nightmare. Her family rallies around, but as the police hunt begins, cracks begin to emerge.
What are the secret emails sent between Emma’s husband and her sister? Why does her mother take so long to join the search? And is Emma really as innocent as she seems?
Meanwhile, ageing widow Maggie Taylor sees Grace’s picture in the newspaper. It’s a photograph that jolts her from the pain of her existence into a spiralling obsession with another girl – the first girl who disappeared…
I love it when I accidentally stumble across a book that is EXACTLY the type of novel I love reading – and that keeps me up all night because I get so engrossed in it that I can’t put it down. It was the title that first attracted me to 99 Red Balloons, because I remember singing this song in the car with my sisters when we were growing up – Nena was a big name in those days! Plus, I can never resist a story about missing children even though as a parent they are pretty harrowing. My advice to readers is to go into this story blindly to make the most of the author’s brilliant plotting – so I am going to hide the rest of my review under the spoiler tag as I don’t want to be responsible for giving anything away.
** POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT! **
Just having turned the last page, I am still reeling from the sheer brilliance of this book. It was just sooooooo good! Told in alternating chapters from the perspective of multiple characters, the book tells the harrowing tale of a family who are living through one of the worst nightmares a parent can ever imagine – the abduction of their daughter Grace. Each and every one of the characters in this amazing story has their own unique voice, and carries their own baggage, making for a rich cast of sympathetic, intriguing characters I couldn’t get enough of. There is Emma, the girl’s mother whose own childhood is still shrouded in mystery but hints of neglect and trauma. Stephanie, her adoptive sister and aunt to Grace, is trying to support her sister but has been keeping some information from her that is still haunting her because she fears it could have a connection to Grace’s disappearance. Matt, the father, is angry and confused and not knowing where to turn. And then there is Maggie, a stranger to the family, whose own granddaughter Zoe has been missing for thirty years, and who follows Grace’s story on the news, reflecting on how Zoe’s abduction has destroyed her own family and cast a dark shadow over her entire life. I am not going to say any more about the story or the other narrators for fear of giving away spoilers, except that the story held some amazing surprises in store that even my seasoned (and sometimes jaded) mystery lover’s nose did not sniff out. I love to be floored by unexpected developments!
There were some harrowing moments in the book, and it was a very emotional read for me. Maggie’s story simply broke my heart as I imagined the pain and loss she had experienced as a result of her granddaughter’s disappearance. As a parent, I can imagine few things worse than not knowing what has happened to your child, and to feel guilty for not having been able to keep them safe. I particularly liked the way the author focused on the story from the family’s perspective, and only revealed details of the police investigation as they were being shared with family members. It added mystery and depth to the story, giving a hint of the fear and frustration the family would be feeling in that situation, thinking the police were keeping information from them.
If you are looking for a brilliantly plotted multi-layered mystery that will surprise and shock you, look no further than 99 Red Balloons. Brimming with intriguing characters, this emotional read will take you straight into a parent’s worst nightmare and keep you guessing throughout. It is definitely on my list of favourite mysteries for 2017 and I can’t wait to read more from this author. Loved it and can’t recommend it highly enough!
A big thank you to Netgalley and Avon Books UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.