My name is Piper Hadley and I went missing on the last Saturday of the summer holidays three years ago…When Piper and her friend Tash disappeared, there was a huge police search, but they were never found. Now Tash, reaching breaking point at the abuse their captor has inflicted on them, has escaped, promising to come back for Piper. Clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin and his stalwart companion, ex-cop Vincent Ruiz, force the police to re-open the case after Joe is called in to assess the possible killer of a couple in their own home and finds a connection to the missing girls. But they are racing against time to save Piper from someone with an evil, calculating and twisted mind…

 After the disappointment of my last crime read it was heartening to seek sanctuary in the criminal bosom of Michael Robotham. Robotham is a firm favourite of mine and once again provides a fine lesson in the craft of crime fiction with an utterly absorbing read. Drawing closely on real-life incidences of child abduction Robotham weaves a compelling tale focusing on the case of two missing teenage girls and the changing public perceptions of the both the case and the two as individuals under the glare of media scrutiny and the heightened sense of purpose the police investigation gains when one of the girls turns up dead. Once again clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin is called to assist in this troubling case and with the help of retired policeman Vincent Ruiz, seeks to determine the whereabouts of the remaining missing girl. The plot is taut and throws up many a quandary for our loveable duo as the investigation unfolds in different directions but what this book highlights more than most is Robotham’s consistently great characterisation.

This was particularly noticeable in Robotham’s portrayal of Piper Hadley a sporty and slightly ungainly teenager but who during her enforced incarceration is revealed as a very perceptive and thoughtful girl grappling mentally and physically with the challenges of the danger she finds herself in. The sections of the book where she narrates her day-to-day suffering at the hands of her abductor are truly moving and incredibly well-realised. I liked the way that her experiences are offset by the traumas caused by Joe’s own teenage daughter Charlie as she navigates her way through these difficult years, at times to the chagrin of her father, as she herself has been held captive in a previous criminal investigation involving Joe. Hence Joe draws on the feelings he had when his own daughter was abducted to aid his own mission to try and ensure the safe return of Piper to her family. On the theme of characterisation we are once again witness to the good-natured ribbing and heartfelt friendship and respect between Joe and Vincent. I adore Vincent despite his propensity for being an eminently unsuitable husband but totally counterbalanced by his mix of intuitive and ballsy approach to police work retired or not. Joe also finds himself involved in a little extra-curricular romantic action which added another facet to plot as well highlighting his slightly rusty skills with the fairer sex!

All in all this is a great read with a perfectly balanced plot, skilled characterisation and dialogue and just a twist or two along the way to add to the tense and thrilling denouement.

Visit Michael Robotham’s website at: http://www.michaelrobotham.com/ and love this quote on his author biog  “Michael can most often be found working in his ‘pit of despair’ (basement office) on Sydney’s northern beaches where he funds the extravagant lifestyles of a wife and three daughters.”
Downloaded digital galley from NetGalley http://www.netgalley.com/
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