The Missing, by Shiloh Walker

4 Nov

The Missing, by Shiloh Walker

Coming out on November 4th from Berkley, The Missing is my current favorite of the novels by Ms Walker that I’ve read so far. Honestly, I think her writing improves with every work she puts out.

The Missing explores the realm of paranormal, or psychic, abilities, and whether they can be harnessed and used as tools, as well as the toll such gifts can take on those who possess them. It is perhaps not a coincidence that foresight, psychometry, and other paranormal powers have been long branded as “curses.”

The back cover blurb:

Love lost
As a teenager, Taige Branch was able to do things with her psychic gift that others couldn’t understand—except for Cullen Morgan, the boy who stole her heart. He did his best to accept her abilities, until his mother was brutally murdered—and he couldn’t forgive Taige for not preventing her death.

Passion found
Now a widowed father, Cullen Morgan has never forgotten Taige. But what brings her back into his life is another tragic event. His beloved little girl has been kidnapped, and Taige is his only hope of finding her.

A love that never died
Working together against the clock, Cullen and Taige can’t help but wonder whether—if they find his daughter in time—it isn’t too late for the overpowering love that still burns between them…

The first thing I love about The Missing is the gradual build up of the relationship between Taige and Cullen. They meet during his first summer vacation in the beach town where she has lived since her parents died years before. In the next few years they become ever closer, discovering each other’s secrets and dreams. It is not easy for Taige to trust anyone, let alone this white boy from the ‘right’ side of the tracks.

The fact that Taige is biracial is mentioned a couple of times early on, but it’s not an issue for Cullen or any of the other characters, which makes it an utter non-issue for the readers—and the only reason I’m mentioning it is because someone somewhere complained that Taige’s ethnicity wasn’t evident from the cover, which left me wondering at the fact that there are readers out there who still expect the covers to match the contents of the book.

On the other hand, Taige’s sight was an issue, one way or another, for most of the people around her, and most definitely for her. Not just in the “I’m different” or “I’m cursed!” way; frankly, there is nothing emo or drama queenish about her. Her sight is an issue because it can literally take over her life, pull her down to a semi comatose state. It makes her physically vulnerable and it ravages her emotional resources.

What she sees is violence and death. Mortal danger, rape, abuse, torture, death. Accidental or violent, deliberate death. Sometimes the visions give her enough clues, and enough time, to intervene and change the outcome. Sometimes what she sees is so far in the future, or the past, as to be useless.

The writing during Taige’s visions is at times dreamy, dare I say poetic?, and perhaps just a bit adorned, while being emotional and visceral, and it reels the reader into the character’s emotions very effectively. It changes, as Taige changes throughout the novel, and as the intensity and impact of the visions themselves change.

At the beginning, it would seem that Cullen is just a tad too perfect—too mature, too generous, too decent—to be a normal teenage male. It is not until his mother’s murder that we realize he continues to struggle to understand exactly what Taige’s gift means—to her and to him—and that his acceptance was based on a sense of distance from said gift. So when it touches his life so closely (or rather, fails to impact it at all) he lashes out at her.

That visceral reaction—his rejection of her, because of her gift and because of his limitation in accepting and understanding it—is key to the development of their characters. And so the dozen years they spend apart after that forge them into two much stronger people.

I like the way the different psychic abilities and events were interwoven with the narrative. Ms Walker treats them, and the people who posses them, as matter of factly as possible while acknowledging their inherent uniqueness. The fact that Taige works with other psychics, people with different abilities and degrees of power to them, is presented in a way that feels possible if not likely.

The pacing throughout the book is excellent, with the only exception being the final confrontation with the villain—I would have liked a bit more of a bang myself, so to speak; the scene felt somehow drawn out, prolonged unnecessarily.

It bears mentioning that I suspected identity and motivations of the villain quite early myself, but this didn’t diminish either the sense of urgency and impending violence while reading, or my enjoyment of the story.

There is just the teensiest bit of repetition of facts, often times from the same character, both early in the novel and during the last three chapters or so. Perhaps those instances where the same character mulls over a particular incident repeatedly can be explained as a narrative device. At any rate, they weren’t glaring nor did they slow down the narrative.

Something that did bother me while reading is that there seems to be a bit too much, and yet too little, about Taylor Jones, Taige’s contact-cum-boss at the FBI. His ambitions, how much of an asshat he is, how driven, even exploitive he is, etc. Frankly, I could have done with less of it, and him. (Wouldn’t hurt my feelings if there was another novel set in the same universe, but definitely not with that guy as the hero, pretty please.)

My last quibble is the existence of the epilogue. Of course I dislike epilogues nine times out of ten, so this is not a personal thing. In this case, though, it’s not so much that feeling of something “tacked on” to tie everything with a neat bow—my usual complaint—as is the fact that it opens some unnecessary threads.

Unless, of course, there is that sequel in the works… :wink:

8.75 out of 10

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One Response to “The Missing, by Shiloh Walker”

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  1. Talking with the Dead, by Shiloh Walker | Her Hands, My Hands - 04/01/2012

    […] threads, questions that are never answered, regarding Michael’s work for the FBI (foreshadowing The Missing, perhaps?) and the question of what exactly he can do other than hearing ghosts is left open after […]

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