Top critical review
Not very good
16 December 2018
I'm a die hard reader of British and American crime stories. Just love them usually. I'll agree they can be somewhat formulaic (the murderer seems to appear at a certain point in a book, no matter what the book is, for example), but if they're well written, they can still be engaging.
This book, which sees a 16 year old girl go missing after she travels to London to celebrate the end of her GCSEs (and explores what happens to a witness who saw the girl, and her friend, "get cozy with" two ex-convicts they meet on the train), is a bad book.
I've seen the book described elsewhere in reviews as slut shaming one of the girls for "getting cozy with" one of the ex-cons on the train (it's used as an excuse to explain why the witness didn't report the girls or the former prisoners). That wasn't slut shaming, it was more... an examination of a middle classed suburban woman's response to how the "youth of today" behave. To my mind I'm not 100% sure how a female character written by a woman can shame anyone in that way.
One of the issues I have with the book is the presentation of class in the book. It's made clear the girl being judged is a bright, sparky, working class kid. Yet here the poor girl is presented as living on spaghetti hoops and cheese sandwiches when she`s not around her "middle classed friends", and it made me wonder how many council estates Ms Driscoll has been to, and how many working class kids she's met. So that's one problem with the book.
Another problem I have is there isn't much description of the characters. Beyond being typically disorganised 20-somethings, I have no idea what Karl and Anthony (the ex-cons) look like. Seriously, go back and read the book again if you've read it already. THERE ARE NO DESCRIPTIONS.
More generally, people are described through their things (middle classed mums and their Agas, farmers and their quad bikes guns boots and dogs, working class families living on council estates, and eating rubbish). In short they're at best short hand descriptions, and at worst it's stereotypes. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think I am.
The final problem with the book is you have no way to work out who the murderer is. I know sometimes you're think "so he's been introduced here so he's a likely suspect" in other books, but you literally had no way to work out who the culprit was. Maybe it's because it's not written from the point of view of the police, who usually drive whodunits forward, so we don't get to see the clues as they come up, but trust me when I say there are so few clues, you won't be able to solve it on your own.
The sad thing is you won't care either, because you won't be invested in the characters.