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Review: Missing by Sam Hawken

The Ian Fleming Steel Dagger celebrates the very best of the thriller genre.

Ian Fleming said there was one essential criterion for a good thriller – that “one simply has to turn the pages” – and this is one of the main characteristics that the judges will be looking for when they pick their winner. Seven titles have been shortlisted for the award this year, and we’ll be looking at each one in turn with the help of book bloggers and reviewers.

Up next is Zoya Mathison, with her thoughts on Missing by Sam Hawken.

Over to Zoya:

“Welcome to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico! This town exists just beyond the United States of America and only just over the border in Mexico. Here you will find a town rife with tensions and small time deals that corrupt the noble and leave death and destruction in its wake. This is home to narcos, drug cartels, bent coppers and the North American Jack Searle’s extended family.

Missing by Sam HawkenJack Searle, a de-mobbed marine turned builder, looks after his late wife’s daughters: Marina, a clever and beautiful 17-year-old, and Lidia who’s just turned 13. They live a small existence in Laredo Texas. The girls go to school and Jack works from one building contract to another – money isn’t a big issue if there is work to be had and Jack enjoys a cold beer at the end of the day. The girls have family in Mexico so the three of them travel over the border to Nuevo Laredo once a month to see their Uncle Bernardo Sigala, his wife Reina and their cousins, Patricia, Leandra and Little Bernardo. The Sigalas live a quiet existence, getting by, raising a family against the background of drug crime and incompetence that surrounds them, as Bernardo tells Jack “It’s narcos killing narcos mostly”. Until the night Patricia and Marina go to a music concert alone and don’t come home.

Here follows a tale that shows you a country in deep turmoil. When Jack and Bernardo report the missing girls they meet Inspector Gonzalo Soler – a good cop with a chequered past who makes finding the girls his top priority and counsels patience above all. However, Soler is thwarted in his attempts to find the girls as the police force is suspended due to endemic corruption, thus forcing the once ‘good’ policemen to delve in to the shadowy Mexican underworld, teaming up with exasperated father Jack for a series of investigations.

Jack is a man on the edge, unravelling under the pressure of unanswered questions and the notion of what it means to be a father. Gonzalo is a man with a love for his country and the belief of a better life for Mexico, even though he has accepted the reality of what Mexico has become. The two men face trial after trial to get to the truth of what happened to the two girls. Leads become dead ends; fear and frustration are the only things that keep them going.

In the heat of the day, your sweat trickling down your back, you long for the cool of night, where the narcos rule and anything can happen.”

Have you read Missing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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