All The Missing Girls

Megan Miranda

I like mystery novels. During my time at AAR I’ve given 7 DIKs to suspense novels and 11 B pluses. To romantic suspense novels I’ve given 10 B pluses and two DIKs. Given that they only make up a small portion of what I review, that’s a pretty good record. It’s a shame I won’t be adding All the Missing Girls to that list.

The story starts with a text message between siblings. Daniel informs Nic that the money is gone and their father is in bad shape, so the family home needs to be sold. It’s a brief interaction but by the end we can tell that Nicolette (Nic) and Daniel Farrell have an uncomfortable relationship. Nicolette agrees to come home but unknown to Daniel it’s for a different reason entirely. She has received a note from their dad which simply says I need to talk to you. That girl. I saw that girl. Given that her best friend has been missing for ten years and her alcoholic father has lost touch with reality badly enough to be in a care home, Nic figures she’d better get back to Cooley Ridge and find out just what that missive means and what the heck her father is telling people.

If you were annoyed by my switching between Nicolette and Nic in the above paragraph, welcome to the club. I found it pretty annoying as I read the book. The name change is (I think) meant to serve as a delineation between who our heroine was and whom she has reinvented herself as. Nic is the sister of Daniel, small town girl from the bad part of town, with questionable taste in friends and lovers. Nicolette is the successful college grad who lives in Philadelphia and has a rich fiancé who’s a lawyer. Nicolette has never introduced anyone from her new life to anyone in her old life. She likes to keep them separate.

That’s because Nic didn’t leave Cooley Ridge so much as flee it. Her best friend, Corinne, disappeared without a trace a decade ago, on the night of a local fair. The investigation at that time focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, her boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend, Jackson, who were Corrine’s known “crowd”. Annaleise Carter, Nic’s neighbor, served as the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. She testified that she saw everyone else leave while Corrine remained behind at the fair. Since Corrine’s body has never been found and she was a troubled teen, it has been assumed she left and simply never contacted anyone. But whatever did happen that night was enough to cause Nic to escape.

Now all the suspects are back together. Daniel and his wife, Laura, have made a home in Cooley Ridge and are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise. Nic is living at her dad’s home once more, albeit temporarily. Then, within days of her return, Annaleise goes missing. Once more Corrine’s crowd finds themselves under suspicion.

I had several problems with this novel but the largest is easily the way the story is told. It’s told backwards. We start at the beginning, with the text message and letter that bring Nic home, but then we jump to Day 15 and work our way to the evening of Day 1, where the whole story is laid out for us. I’m good with time jumps and am especially fond of authors such as Rachel Hore and Suzanna Kearsley who utilize this method. It doesn’t work here simply because it makes the story nonsensical. A key would appear that got Nic into an important location but I had no idea where the key had come from. Rather than concentrating on what was happening, I would get hung up on the how and why of her entering that location and having the key to do so. So the time jump proved more distracting than suspenseful. That sort of thing happens repeatedly in the story.

Another issue lay with the narrator. Suffering from what I term the Gone Girl effect, Nic is meant to be an unreliable raconteur; someone whom we think is as likely to be the culprit as the victim. The main reason that doesn’t work is because of how it gets tangled in the time jump. It had this reader spending too much time second guessing what was going on and too little time actually engaged in reading the mystery. Most stories don’t bear up under the kind of scrutiny long pauses to think invite, and this one is no exception. Combined, the two writing tricks really derail the pacing of the tale.

The author’s coy attempts to keep the reader in suspense had another affect; I was unable to connect with the characters. I was completely ambivalent about Nic and found myself disliking the hero, Tyler. I kept wishing that Nic would leave him – and the other crazies in Cooley Ridge – to deal with their own problems. Which pretty much means the romance as well as the mystery was a bust.

Surprisingly, what saved the tale from being a complete loss, and therefore receiving a D or an F, was re-reading it backwards. I started with Day 1 and worked my way to Day 15. This gave me a chance to re-examine the book without being distracted by the gimmicky writing used by the author. In this light, character decisions and behavior made sense. The question of, “What the hell is happening here?” took a back seat to relationship development; everyone seemed far less odd and far more real when the events were seen in consequential order. The problem is, when you read from Day 1 to Day 15, the suspense aspect is mostly absent.

I think if Ms. Miranda had stuck with a traditional timeline to tell All the Missing Girls she would have delivered a decent novel. Alas, she got a bit too creative with her writing and lost her story along the way.

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Book Details

Reviewer :      Maggie Boyd

Grade :     C-

Sensuality :      Subtle

Book Type :     

Review Tags :     

Recent Comments


  1. Sharon freed January 24, 2017 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    I agree. I am an avid reader, a long time English teacher and I did not find anything redeeming poor characterization, awkward plot , cannot see why it is a bestseller

  2. Stacy Dellisanti March 18, 2017 at 9:46 am - Reply

    Double agreed!!!! Very confusing! I read other reviews where they praised the author on how the story is told. For me it was so hard to concentrate that I had anxiety reading it not because of the suspense but because I was trying to gather all the information. After finally finishing the book I’m still left trying to put it all together. Im still unsure who killed Annalise? I got so frustrated with the narrative that I skipped over some it…anyway if someone can explain so I dont have to reread. I thought about reading from day 1 to 15 like you suggest but I’m over it!

  3. Chantal Beauregard April 19, 2017 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    I agree with Stacy – very confusing! and toward the end I skipped a lot of ‘useless’ (and confusing) narratives…..I’m also still wondering who killed Annalise??? can someone let me know? (I may have to re-read backwards to find out ;|)

  4. Debbie T July 5, 2017 at 9:36 pm - Reply

    Did not finish the book. Too irritating with the timeline. Author trying too hard to be different and clever. Lost this reader and my book club.

  5. Sandra Newton July 8, 2017 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    Just finished reading the book. I too found it very confusing and distracting. Could have been a good story if I wasn’t constantly flipping the pages back & forth trying to figure out if I missed something.

  6. Danielle M Prefach August 9, 2017 at 2:19 pm - Reply

    I do agree that the way the story was told was a bit confusing and would have been better told differently. It took me a good first few chapters to even really get into the book but in the end I really enjoyed the story and the characters as well. I also really enjoyed how the story ended. I applaud the author on at least attempting a different style of storytelling!

  7. Misty E August 9, 2017 at 3:32 pm - Reply

    I just finished the book last night. Although, I do feel the backwards plot device was at times unnecessary I still enjoyed the book. I had a feeling that I was dealing with the unreliable narrator telling of the story which is so popular these days but was pleasantly surprised by the way it unfolded. There were times when I felt confused because of the way it was told, I just let go of the anxiety of trying to figure out all the small details of how this fit in a chronological timeline and it became more enjoyable when I just let the story happen. A lot of my favorite movies use this circular way of exposing the plot and it can be confusing but it makes you think outside the box. I like that!

  8. Kim August 31, 2017 at 6:00 am - Reply

    Excellent review

  9. Nancy Potvin September 22, 2017 at 10:40 pm - Reply

    I agree with the irritating back-to-front confusion aspect – there was a Seinfeld episode years ago that did this and I disliked it immensely. Same thing here, and I really had high hopes for this book. I finished it, but can’t say I’m eager to read another of this author.

  10. Jen December 23, 2017 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    Disagree. I met the review with skepticism when the reviewer whinged about it being annoying that the author switched beteeeb “Nic” and “Nicolette.” A quibble if I ever heard one, and a completely unearned one at that. I, for one, could not put the book down and was lost in the steamy Southern gothic that enveloped the book. The suspense builds. The characters- while not imminently likeable (quelle horreur!) – were intriguing and driven by very relatable impulses, most prominently family. I loved the atmospheric tension, the complicated characters, and the mounting tension. This book is far superior to “Girl on a Train” and “Girl in Cabin 10.” It is ambitious, literary, and well-worth your time.

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