Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Book Review: First One Missing by Tammy Cohen

"There are three things no-one can prepare you for when your daughter is murdered:
- You are haunted by her memory day and night
- Even close friends can't understand what you are going through.
- Only in a group with mothers of other victims can you find real comfort.
But as the bereaved parents gather to offer support in the wake of another killing, a crack appears in the group that threatens to rock their lives all over again.
Welcome to the club no one wants to join."

After well and truly falling for Tammy Cohen's writing style when I read The Broken a few months ago, I knew I would be eager to read anything else by her as she is truly brilliant. When her new novel, First One Missing, appeared on Netgalley, I rushed to press the 'request' button and I was really pleased to be authorised to have a copy (thank you!).

First One Missing follows different families coping (or not so in some cases) with the murder of their young daughters. The story accurately portrays the whole grief spectrum - depression, anger, loss, guilt - they all play a huge part in the characters lives. The story also follows Leanne, a family liaison officer, as she supports the families and also works with the police force to try and apprehend the killer of these girls.

The story is fast-paced due to each chapter changing character viewpoint, which is a style that I personally prefer as it keeps it interesting and allows the reader to get to know the different characters really well. One of my favourite characters in the story was Sally, a journalist looking to get her 'big break' from this story. She is a selfish yet funny character and provided some light relief from the heaviness of the story. You also really become engaged with the different families reactions to the death of a daughter or sibling. You see parents struggling to carry on with their lives, with the death causing a strain on their marriage and feeling unable to carry on 'as normal'. You see a brother who finds it all annoying and over the top - why does his mum insist on crying all the time and embarrassing him? These different thoughts and reactions not only keep the story fast-paced, but they show the different stages of grief and ways of coping with a loss - especially when it is in such high-profile and dramatic circumstances.

First One Missing is harrowing in places and certainly isn't an easy read- it really provokes emotion and any story that has a key theme of child abuse and murder is going to make you feel uneasy at times. Despite this, it is a gripping story that pulled me in from the first page. I wanted to know more - more about the families, more about the investigation and more about the killer. At times, I felt uncomfortable and emotional reading it, but that to me reflects what a brilliant author Tammy is - she provokes the right emotions for the situation taking place and manages to perfectly balance harrowing emotion with the need to read more. 

This is certainly an edge of your seat mystery not to be missed. Tammy keeps you on your toes throughout the whole story and there isn't an obvious answer as to who the killer is right up until it is revealed at the end. During the story you get an indication of who it might be, but I was never entirely sure. I don't want to spoil anything but be warned that there is a huge and brilliant twist that turns everything on its head and will stay with you for a long time after you've finished the book. I was so shocked I had to go back and re-read the chapter again to check I hadn't got confused (I hadn't, it was just THAT good!) If your looking for an addictive, gritty read then you've found it - get yourself First One Missing and enjoy immersing yourself within Tammy's addictive writing style. 

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