As a Nicci French fan as soon as I could get my hands on this thriller I bought it. These authors write some of my favourite books and always keep me gripped. As an interesting new direction, Losing You is cleverly written in realtime, with no skipping over of details and as a technical way of accompanying the panicky plotline. Set in the first day after her eldest child has gone missing, Losing You portrays the heroine's search for her daughter. It is realistic in the way that while Nina begins her day in a calculated timescale, as the frantic afternoon and evening unravels we lose sense of time as we suspect she must, becoming more and more panicked and running out of time in her search.
However, I think Gerard and French need to refine this way of writing a novel in one long thread, as a single chapter, because it contains the seeds of the novel's own shortcomings. For instance, while at the beginning there is time to get a vague feel of the other characters, the only real development occurs in those of Nina, her son, her ex-husband and the two main neighbours, Alix and Joel. This doesn't give a sense of depth to parts of the novel; for instance, the killer. While in other books we are always given a sense of the killer's character (be they more of a background personality, like Charlie in Catch Me, or Morris in Beneath the Skin, or someone that we know from the beginning is sinister, like Brendan in Secret Smile or Adam in Killing Me Softly), thus enabling us to weigh up the evidence and guess who the killer might be, Losing You's killer could have been anyone as we have no character depth. While Nicci French varies perspectives and this is not their only novel written entirely in the heroine's first person, it feels lacking in that we don't feel part of her. This is also due to the pace of the book, which does not have time to engage us in Nina's life - we don't know what her job is, what she likes or what her hobbies are, who her real friends are - and therefore I felt less gripped than usual. The realtime element also prevents the authors from cutting out the more irrelevent points of the story, which slows a pace that should be racy and tense into something the reader wishes wasn't as slow and descriptive, especially geographically - the road-placings of Charlie's paper round are unnecessary for instance.
The pace at the ending of the book, while initially inducing the tension we are used to, almost becomes annoying - the inept authorities still don't understand what's happened and Nina won't trust the doctors who are there to help, although perhaps understandably she is desperate to see Charlie. While we seem to be promised a characteristic twist at the end, when the police point out the failings of Nina's idea of the killer, the finish falls short of expectations.
At the end of the book I felt short-changed - I had had no idea who the killer was, and in retrospect, didn't 'understand' the motives as I have in previous French novels. The book did not thrill until the last sentence as is usual; in fact it could have concluded a couple of pages earlier. There were thrilling and exciting parts to the novel but, in short, fingers crossed that Until It's Over will be a return to form.