Review: “Missing White Girl,” Jeffrey J. Mariotte

Pros: Very original
Cons: Not entirely engaging
Rating: 3 out of 5

Jeffrey J. Mariotte’s thriller Missing White Girl starts out seeming entirely ordinary, but it’s really a paranormal thriller. (This can feel discordant if you don’t know it up front, and I don’t feel that it’s giving anything away to tell you.) White girl and wannabe-model Elayne Lippincott has been missing for 12 days. When teenager Lulu Lavender goes missing as well–and her entire family is killed–no one pays much attention, quite likely because Lulu is half-black half-Mexican. Buck, a patrol lieutenant with the sheriff’s office, however, is determined to put in his best effort to find her with whatever resources he can squeeze out of the media-loving sheriff. The obvious suspect is neighbor and college professor Oliver, who has a history of sleeping with a student. The reader, however, knows from Lulu’s sections that things aren’t that simple. Eventually it comes out that Lulu was having dreams of miracles occurring across the border in Mexico, before they happened–something to do with a white statue of a young woman. And her captor only wants to know one thing: “When is she coming?”

Because we know more about Lulu’s circumstances than Buck does, some of Buck’s investigations are tedious. We already know whoever has her is with her in a cabin somewhere, so it clearly can’t be Oliver, who spends time at home with his wife. If the author had put off revealing Lulu’s predicament for a little while, maybe these mundane investigations would have seemed more interesting, had more tension to them.

Magic is real, but it mostly turns up as something unknowable and unexplainable, with people following the dictates of a magical statue and, at the end, someone briefly aiming magic at another person. I don’t want to go into detail regarding the ending, obviously, but I will say that I found it unsatisfying. It just kind of lets go of something that had been building up with little explanation.

The race and class issues that show up in here are interesting. There is some clear tendency of the media and some of law enforcement to pay more attention to the wealthy white missing girl’s case than Lulu’s. The reader has to sit through some characters’ arguments for why immigrants are such a problem. Content note for both anti- and pro-immigration rhetoric. Also, explicit sex.

Even toward the end of the book I had a hard time getting truly engrossed. The action didn’t pick up until late, and it wasn’t particularly engaging. There’s a firefight involving at least six different sides, and it was good, but not breathtaking. Other than that, things were a bit unsatisfying.

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