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The Missing by Sarah Langan
Review by Steve Sawicki
Harper Mass Market  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780060872915
Date: 01 October 2007 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Webpage / Show Official Info /

The Missing is the follow-up book by Sarah Langan to The Keeper. Third-grade teacher Lois Larkin takes her class on a field trip to Bedford, now a ghost town under strange circumstances, where one of her students, a cruel and small boy, manages to sneak away. Larkin gathers the students and leaves, never realizing that she's missing a student. In the interim the boy finds a field surrounded by dead animals and becomes compelled to dig a hole, unearthing an ancient plague that begins transforming him. He becomes a carrier and soon enough he's back in his hometown attacking people and infecting them. Before long the majority of people are infected and looking for a way out.

Set in almost the same geographic area (The Keeper was set in Beford while The Missing is set in the neighboring town of Corpus Christi) this story is really more of a sequel than a standalone novel. Langan employs many of the same plot structures and settings as in The Keeper. Both books are about lonely, broken women gaining power through supernatural means but also being used by that power instead of being empowered by it.

There is a similar depression to the setting as well: a small, abandoned town full of people who don't have the willpower to leave and who justify their staying on with the idea that as bad as it is here it is probably worse somewhere else. Certainly not a happy bunch. Lois fits right into this group, living with her alcoholic mother, abused by the few people she calls friends, stuck in a job she has come to hate and almost numb to everything. On the one hand this makes it easier for the reader to come to grips with the horrible things that will happen to these people while on the other it provides a certain weight to the entire community.

This book straddles the line between mystery and horror. While the force that begins to infect the town is horror-derived, the struggle to understand that force and figure out a reaction falls squarely into the mystery genre.

Langan is a good writer; I wish she had moved this book out of the area so well used in her first novel, although it may be she's using geography she is most familiar with. I enjoyed the book, although it does have some very creepy sections. You might want to make sure it's light outside when you read it. I thought Langan did a superb job with the characters and plotting and would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good scare and a good mystery.

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