The Trap
Grade : B+

The Trap is a mesmerizing look at how women handle the disappearance of a loved one and shows why we should all care about the missing.

An ex-boyfriend once told her that his favorite part of a night out was the walk home. Just him and his thoughts on deserted streets, the evening’s fun still warm in his chest. He had no tense wait for a taxi. He didn’t need to walk to the front door with his keys squeezed between his fingers, ready to scratch, to disable. He had never texted a thumbs-up emoji to anyone before he went to sleep so that they could go to sleep as well. The part of the night he loved, was the part that she had to survive.”

The young woman ruminates on this as she staggers down an unlit street. She looks like prey. In fact, she is the hunter. She spends the darkest part of the night pretending to be drunk, walking the eerily quiet area where her sister was last seen in the hopes she will catch the eye of the same monster who took her sibling.

When a man stops and offers her a ride, she accepts. When he engages all the locks, essentially trapping her in the car, she comes to a startling realization. She isn’t ready to catch a killer. She doesn’t have a means of defense nor a plan on how to subdue him. She is shakily grateful when, after a rather terrifying conversation and seemingly endless ride, he delivers her to a well-lit all-night petrol station as promised. I wanted to reach through the pages and slap her silly. Oh, wait. She already is silly. Can you really knock some sense into someone? If so, I’d like to do that.

Lucy Sullivan’s life has a before and after. Before her sister Nicki disappeared, Lucy was a young woman with a dream. The siblings were going to sell their recently deceased mother’s house and Lucy was going to use the proceeds to refurbish the town’s former butcher shop into a trendy new eatery. Then one night, Nicki went out drinking with friends, left the bar on her own, and vanished. Her phone was found discarded in a laneway, but there is no CCTV footage to show how it had gotten there or where Nicki had gone. Lucy is frozen in that night, unable to do anything but share the house she never sold with Chris, Nicki’s former boyfriend, as they both wait for her sister to walk through the door. She makes her nightly excursions in the hopes of speeding that along.

This morning is different, though. This morning, her FLO (Family Liason Officer), Denise Pope, is waiting for her when she arrives home. Denise is part of Operation Tide, a big-budget search for the rising number of women who have gone missing in the vicinity of the Wicklow mountains. They are linked because their cell phones have all been found in alleys or bushes near where they were last seen. Three of them are considered to be the main players in the drama.

The first is Tana Meehan, last spotted at a bus stop in Kildare by a former schoolmate. Nicki is the second. But it’s the lovely and talented seventeen-year-old Jennifer Gold, who vanished while out walking her dog, who has captured the hearts and intense interest of both the nation and, subsequently, the Garda. The dog was found, her phone was found, but there was no trace of Jennifer. That’s when the Tide team was formed. It has always bothered Lucy that Nicki and Tana were been embraced by the public/police the way that Jennifer has been.

Lucy is also upset by the complete absence of evidence or information. Because the majority of the missing women are adults, it is possible they left voluntarily, discarding their phones so they couldn’t be traced. It is equally possible they were murdered or abducted. It could be one person (a serial killer/rapist) doing that or many. The not knowing is driving Lucy to the brink of insanity. (In fairness, it wasn’t a long journey!)

And now Denise is telling Lucy another young woman may be involved. Lena Packzkowsk’s family thought her a runaway, but when Lena is found near death at the foot of the Wicklow mountains, she claims she was abducted and only recently escaped. There were others, she says ominously, before going silent due to her injuries. Denise assures Lucy that’s all they know and urges Lucy to trust her. But Lucy doesn’t. She feels Tide has bungled the investigation into the missing women. She is convinced she will have to do the work of finding Nicki herself if it is to be done at all.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), several factors converge to make this the pivotal moment in the case. At the same time Denise is talking to Lucy, Angela Fitzgerald, a Garda support staff member for the Missing Persons Unit (MPU), receives the wallet of yet another (possible) missing woman. And True Crime Expert/pulp (tabloid) journalist Jack Keane, who has been trying to speak to the families of the Tide girls, finally dangles bait Lucy can’t resist.

Denise and Angela are, far and away, the easiest characters to like in this tale. They are talented, intelligent, resourceful women who carefully walk the line between caring and being subsumed by the horrors they face. Angela’s fresh insights and Denise’s gritty, dogged determination are what eventually blow the case wide open, and I loved how perceptive both women are. We don’t see much of them as private individuals (except to know that Angela hates to work out or eat vegetables) but as police officers, they are everything you could ever possibly want. I liked that the author has chosen to make the story about them as investigators and not delve too deeply into the rest of their lives, since it helps keep the focus on the mystery.

One of the big questions of the book is: should questionable judgment keep people from caring that you never made it home? Lucy and Nicki are both selfish, and as Denise says, “Stupidity must run in the family.” They make choices that place them in harm’s way and then are surprised when what they do leads to a big mess. Neither listens to the people around them and both have the attitude that their way is always the right way (it rarely is). But I still agree with the author’s point – that imperfect girls should not be forgotten about simply because of their imperfections.

I’ve heard readers complain before about twist endings, so fair warning that this story has one. I’ve also heard complaints about the inclusion of chapers from the villain’s viewpoint, and that happens here, too. In this case, those narratives ultimately contributed to the twist, so I didn’t feel they were gratuitous.

In spite of the eye-roll-inducing opener of a woman trying to bait a (possible) killer, I thoroughly enjoyed The Trap. It’s a lovely mix of mystery and police procedural, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good suspense story.

Reviewed by Maggie Boyd

Grade: B+

Book Type: Mystery|Suspense

Sensuality: N/A

Review Date : November 3, 2023

Publication Date: 08/2023

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Recent Comments …

  1. Thank you . I read the free sample and the nonsense you expound on above was sufficiently grating to me…

Maggie Boyd

I've been an avid reader since 2nd grade and discovered romance when my cousin lent me Lord of La Pampa by Kay Thorpe in 7th grade. I currently read approximately 150 books a year, comprised of a mix of Young Adult, romance, mystery, women's fiction, and science fiction/fantasy.
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