Notes from my bookshelf #6: First One Missing – Tammy Cohen

  • Thrilled to be invited to write this post as part of the Tammy Cohen blog tour and thanks to Sarah Harwood for sending me a copy to review.

I love a good psychological thriller, whether it involves a crime or not, and having recently read Tammy Cohen’s The Broken, I was really looking forward to reading her new novel, First One Missing.

Published yesterday (2 July 2015) by Doubleday, the novel tells the story of four grieving families who are living through every parent’s worst nightmare: the murder of their child. The plot follows the police investigation upon the discovery of another body of a young girl on Hampstead Heath, as told through the eyes of not only Family Liaison Officer Leanne Miller, but also the other forgotten victims of such crimes – the families – as they try to support each other in getting on with their lives.

This is not just a police procedural narrative. Cohen expertly provides a raw, naked insight into familial grief, whether a parent or sibling. The story is told from a number of characters’ points of view, all distinctive from each other, showing how a split-second twist of fate can ripple in numerous directions.

Weaving through the entire narrative is the anti-hero in Jason. I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but he is painted so clearly as the suspect initially that I began to worry that there would be no Big Twist, as I have come to expect from such novels. As it turns out, I was not disappointed and I never did guess how it would end.

It is a tense, unpredictable, sometimes uncomfortable read and I couldn’t put it down from page 1. If you’ve never read any of Tammy Cohen’s novels, I urge you to as both this and The Broken – a taut, unnerving psychological drTammy Cohen blog tour posterama involving two couples and what can happen when your best friends divorce – will not disappoint (as I’m sure is the case with the other novels she has written).

As this review is part of a blog tour, I (and you too, I hope – see the attached poster for more details) will be reading the other reviews with interest, but I’m sure I will not be alone in saying that this is a must-read. If you’re going somewhere nice on your summer holidays, make sure you’ve got this one packed in your suitcase.

So what will I be reading next? Tammy Cohen was recently asked about her favourite crime reads and she had the following recommendations. There are two on her list that I have not read yet, so I’ll be packing them in my suitcase, along with Bitter Fruits by Alice Clarke-Platts (also published yesterday by Penguin), a fellow ex-Curtis Brown student and good friend of mine. Look out for my review of Alice’s debut novel in the next few weeks.

My 5 Favourite Crime Books – Tammy Cohen

What is a crime book? Is Jane Eyre a crime book? Bleak House? The Great Gatsby? If all it takes to be a crime book is for a crime to happen, practically every book on my shelves could qualify. So to avoid overloading my brain with too much choice, I’m going to narrow it down to the books where the crime, or the lead up to the crime or its aftermath, is the central focus. Here then are my five crime book choices:

  1. The Shining Girls – Lauren Beukes

A time-travelling serial killer? Oh puh-lease. I put off reading this book for ages because of my innate resistance to anything sci-fi and the huge leap of faith this novel demands, but Beukes totally pulls it off. This is a dazzling, stomach-churning book with one of the creepiest villains at its dark, twisted heart.

  1. You – Caroline Kepnes

Told from the point of view of an obsessed stalker, this book fizzes with wit and energy and puts the reader in the uncomfortable position of finding themselves a little bit in love with a seriously messed up, homicidal bookseller.

  1. Apple Tree Yard – Louise Doughty

Gripping, compulsive, brilliantly written. I tore through this book in a fever, desperate to find out why the respected, middle aged scientist protagonist had ended up in the Old Bailey, and was ridiculously thrilled when my fan-girl tweet was included on the inside cover of the paperback.

  1. Broken Harbour – Tana French

French’s haunting, atmospheric thriller masterfully unpicks the events leading up to the deaths of the Spain family in a falling-apart house on an abandoned, half-built executive housing estate in post-building-boom Ireland.

  1. Alex – Pierre Lemaitre

I love it when a book completely wrong-foots you, as this one does, switching from what looks to be a fairly run-of-the-mill kidnapping to something far more subversive. But what really won me over was Lemaitre’s detective hero, Commandant Camille Verhoeven – a stunning creation, psychologically complicated, intellectually brilliant and only 4ft 11ins tall.”

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