Review: Missing Person by Sarah Lotz


Title: Missing Person

Author: Sarah Lotz

Published: September 3rd 2019, Mulholland Books

Status: Read September 2019 courtesy Mulholland Books/Netgalley


My Thoughts:

‘Looking for my uncle Edward Shaun Ryan. Goes by Teddy. He left Wicklow County in Ireland in 1995 and might be in NYC. To my knowledge he hasn’t contacted the family since then. His current age would be 42. Irish, slender, five foot five (approximately), gay. If you have any information please contact…”

Irish bookseller Shaun Ryan is stunned when he learns that his late mother’s favourite brother, Teddy may still be alive and well. While Shaun had been told his Uncle was killed in a car accident before he was born, it seems Teddy had instead been banished to the United States in part because, like Shaun, he was gay. Despite the vehement objections of his remaining family members, Shaun decides to search for him, posting messages online, hoping to reconnect with Teddy.

Shaun is shaken when he is contacted by a woman who runs a forum called for amateur websleuths that specialises in identifying the remains of missing people, suggesting that Teddy could be a match for an unidentified murder victim, known as ‘The Boy in the Dress’. The possibility galvanises the members of the site and with this new information the group redoubles their efforts to unravel the mystery. However among the eager websleuths lurks Teddy’s killer, and he is is determined that this is one case that will remain unsolved.

Missing Person offers an original, modern premise that is utterly believable. I was engrossed in this story, which explores the world of websleuthing, the online investigation of crime by individuals. It is an intriguing hobby that attracts a wide spectrum of people from bored housewives, to retired law enforcement officers, to IT specialists, and everything in between. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to one day learn that a killer has infiltrated a websleuth forum, of which there are many, in order to keep tabs on, or even derail, an inquiry that threatens to expose him/her. Murderer’s are known for attempting to get close to law enforcement investigations, for example, often participating in community searches for their victims, or volunteering false information to canvassing detectives. It would be relatively simple for a killer to anonymously involve themselves in this arena, something Lotz’s story acknowledges, along with the other possible pitfalls associated with online sleuthing, especially when social media is utilised.

Divided into four parts, and told from multiple perspectives, using a combination of a third person narrative and exchanged messages, texts, and forum posts, Missing Person is not just about the mystery surrounding Teddy’s murder, it examines the interesting characters that involve themselves in the case; Shaun (aka WicklowBoy22), Teddy’s nephew; forum owner, Chris (RatKing1), whose own mother has been missing since she was a teen; ‘Rainbowbrite’ (aka Ellie) a stay at home wife and mother; and the man who uses the online handle ‘BobbieCowell’, whose fascination with the case isn’t at all benign. I really enjoyed the author’s approach to telling this story, with its focus on the motives of her main characters, rather than on the crime itself.

Clever, engaging, and suspenseful, with the recent uptick of interest in true crime, evidenced by popular podcasts such as My Favorite Murder, and various Netflix specials, the publication of Sarah Lotz’s novel, Missing Person, is a timely and entertaining novel.


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