Jack Searle lost his mother a few years ago when she dies of cancer. He now lives a quiet life near the Mexican border, surviving as a builder and looking after Marina and Lidia, his stepdaughters. Jack is concerned when Marina decides she wants to go to a concert in the dangerous, criminally rife Nuevo Laredo. But Jack lets her go… she doesn’t return.
There’s no word from the girls, but the family has one ace up its sleeve: the man working on their case is Gonzalo Solero, the one clean cop around. Even Gonzalo’s efforts are stymied, however, when the entire police force is suspended due to corruption and the law is put in the hands of the army. Gonzalo doesn’t give up, though; he continues his investigation.
Coming from a highly credited author (Sam Hawken’s Tequila Sunset and The Dead Women were nominated for the CWA Dagger Awards) it’s little surprise to find that Missing has been pulled of with masterful craftsmanship. Things start gently, then escalate when Marina crosses the border, and then the plot rattles off at breakneck pace. The sense of contrast between the family’s peaceful home and the criminal underworld of Nuevo Laredo brings the atmosphere of the two places to life, and the tension is palpable.
Everything that Hawken writes is packed full of genuine social intelligence, from the home life of the family to the grimy criminal underworld, and the characters are all highly believable. Reading it, I get a sense of Earl W Wallace’s screenplay Witness (the exceptional movie starring Harrison Ford), with the peacefulness of one society being bludgeoned by the brutality of another society.
Missing is a gritty and raw story, but it’s also realistic. Hawken seems to pride himself on believability, and Missing is no exception. It’s a gritty, visceral novel you won’t want to put down.