“ Author: Nicci French / Genre: Crime / Thriller „
Losing you was the first story I have read by Nicci French and it follows the story of Nina Landry who lives on a small island just off the English coast. Although I believe the island is fictional, it is possibly based on one of the many islands that surround the UK and it makes a nice change that the story is based in this country, rather than in America which most stories are these days.
The story covers one day in the life of Nina, which is possibly the worst day she has ever had. It starts with Nina at her neighbours getting her car fixed and the three of them are having a chat about island life and the people that live there. It is just normal chat, but is sets up the characters very nicely for the rest of the story.
Nina then returns home and is treated to a surprise party which her daughter Charlie has organised for her. However, Charlie is not present at this party. No one seems to think this is odd apart from Nina, who then sets out on trying to find out where her daughter is. She soon calls the police, who again so not take her seriously so she decides to take matters into her own hands.
I really enjoyed this book because it was different. One reading a few pages in and deciding it was time for bed, I looked for a good place to stop. I flicked forward a few pages and realised I hadn't seen any chapter markings. Because there isn't. The story is written continuously with no breaks. At first I thought this was quite odd, but then as the story progressed the action and suspense increased and if the story had chapters this would break up the suspense. Nina is rushing around the island, often retracing her steps and you really get a sense of this by having no chapters. Ideally this book should be read in one sitting, and although it's not very long, I don't think most people have the time for this anymore.
There are many characters in the book who could be possible suspects which again, I liked as it keeps you guessing. It is written entirely from Nina's point of view so that the reader really gets a sense of how worried she is and how desperate she is to find her daughter. There are tales of how the police are on her trail, but by doing things the right way, they are several steps behind and timing is crucial.
This book is highly recommended because it is unusual. I also read the introduction to the author at the beginning and found that Nicci French is actually a pseudonym for the writing partnership of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. On researching them I found that they write the story together, taking it in turns to write a section. But this is not noticeable in the book so they must have very similar writing styles or a very good editor.
This is a fast paced book providing lots of suspense and a must read for all.
On her 40th birthday, just as Nina and her family are due to fly to Florida for Christmas, her 16 year old daughter, Charlie, goes missing. Nina knows she has not just turned some teenage rebellion trick and that there is something seriously wrong with the picture, but trying to convince the police of this is proving difficult.
Suspicous of everyone, even her ex-husband, Nina frantically chases her tail round Sandling Island, the small island she lives on, in search for her daughter or clues to help find her. But when the dead body of one of Charlie's friends turns up Nina's pace steps up.
I did enjoy this book although it felt very mundane for the first half with Nina repeating things over and over and to be honest there just wasn't enough action for me. I think it was written to try and build up the suspense of what had happened to Charlie, but it came across as a little boring to start with. I had to make myself continue reading and I was glad I did because the last half of the book was a lot better with lots of revelations and things coming forward to help fill in the pictures.
Another annoying thing was that there were no chapters. It is just one long run of text and while I may have enjoyed this if I had a whole day to lounge around and read, I have to snatch my reading time while in the bath or for half an hour at the end of the day before bed. Not having any chapters meant it was difficult to find a convenient place to stop, but I managed and so I guess it is just a minor niggle.
The overall style of the book was meant to be very suspenseful and the authors pulled that off to a certain extent, but if the first half had been a quicker pace I think it would have worked a lot better overall.
I really do like Nicci French books but this is not as good as the other ones I have read although is still worth a read if you are a fan.
Nicci French is the name used by the husband and wife writing team of Nicci Jerrard and Sean French and up to 'Losing you' they have also had eight other best selling novels. This was the first of their novels I have read and whilst there was nothing actually wrong with the plot or storyline I have to say I haven't been compelled to buy any of their other books. I actually got this book in a 'bargain set' of five books via my book club. I bought the set for three other books in the set. (as the set was £35 for the five books I thought 'why not?')
For me the best thing about the writing style is the description of the characters and the area the book is set. This may make a book to TV adaptation fairly easy, if this is ever done that is. This book is unusual as it is done all in one continuous run, as in there are no actual chapters. Also the book focuses on one the thoughts and the day of one character the whole time. The lack of chapters does add to the sence of urgency which is depicted in the plot but it may prove to be a problem for those who only read a couple of chapters at a time.
The book does make fairly light reading and the character descriptions do mean you aren't constantly turning back to an earlier part of the book to remind yourself of 'which one was he/she again'. It is a good holiday read but not a book I will read again.
Brief plot summary (trying not to give too much away for those who haven't read the book):
Nina Landry reluctantly moved to Sandling Island with her family two years ago with her family. It was her husband's idea as he wanted to open a seafood restaurant. Unfortunately the restaurant failed and her husband left her and her family. Nina stayed on the island as she had become attached to how peaceful it was and the close knit friendly community that lives there.
Now two years later she is due to go away to Florida for a Christmas holiday with her two children and her new boyfriend. Not only that, but on the day they are due to leave it is her birthday. Much to her irritation her 15 year old daughter, Charlie, had organised a birthday party for her. That was the last thing Nina needed whilst she was trying to pack. Charlie had also been away the night before at a sleepover but had promised to be home in time. Unfortunately she hasn't got back yet, typical teenagers is her first thought.
It's getting later and still Charlie hasn't turned up, Nina is now getting worried, where is she? Nina begins by retracing her daughters steps, the sleep over did anything happen there? Did she complete her paper round? Had Charlie's father picked her up in an attempt to stop Nina taking their children away for Christmas? When she finds the answers to these Nina begins to panic. Something had happened to her daughter. Something very wrong but no one is listening to her. Most still believe 'She's a teenager, she'll come home when she is ready'.
As night falls there are more reasons to make Nina certain that something is very wrong indeed, a mother's worst nightmare begins to form in her mind. Nina believes that Charlie hasn't run away, something worse, much worse has happened to her....
Having read a handful of Nicci French books I grabbed 'Losing You' off the shelf at the library thinking it would do. I tried to recall what I thought of the previous books but my mind went blank. I thought that they must have liked them as I tend to remember the ones I dislike and had I loved them then I'd have also have remembered. I had no high expectations of 'Losing You' and sometimes that can be for the best. Nicci French is in fact a pseudonym for Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. They are a married couple who write in unison without the reader being able to tell who is who. I did a quick search to see who they went about this and they said they wrote a chapter and then passed it over to the other. They read it; made any alterations they wanted and wrote the next one and so on. All I can say is they must get on very well to do this and their writing styles must be very similar!
Nina Landry has a busy day ahead of her. She and her new boyfriend are heading off to Florida with her children for a Christmas break. Not only that but it's Nina's fortieth birthday. It's morning time and she is having car problems so she's turned to a neighbour who is trying to fix it. On top of that he isn't sure if Charlie, her 15 year old daughter, is home from a sleepover the previous night. Being a typical teenager she promised she'd do her packing, some chores as well as her paper round before they have to set off to Heathrow.
Nina moved to Sandling Island, in East Anglia, with her husband Rory 2 years ago when he wanted to start up a restaurant. She was reluctant to move from London but in the end she grew to love it. The restaurant failed and Rory left the island and his family. She's not been with her boyfriend all that long but she's happy and he's given her a new lease of life. So she's really looking forward to her holiday. On arriving home to do some last minute preparations for their holiday Nina discovers that Charlie isn't home yet. There is a knock at the door and it turns out that Charlie has organised a surprise birthday party much to her dismay. Amongst all the chaos of the uninvited guests Nina continues to get things ready as well as leaving more messages of Charlie's mobile seeing as she's not answering it. She can't understand what's taking her so long.
She contacts the police and after looking around her room and seeing a few things are missing they imply that she has run away. It certainly looks that way to an outsider but Nina knows Charlie wouldn't do that. She was looking forward to Florida as much as she was. If she ran away then why organise the surprise birthday? Has something happened to her? Adamant that something has happened rather than running away Nina starts to look for Charlie herself seeing as the police aren't taking it seriously. Will she find her? Will they still manage to go on holiday?
Nina is the narrator so not only do you follow her trying to find her daughter you also hear her fears and thoughts. She is very likeable but at the same time very determined. She won't just sit at home and let the police deal with it, as she's sure they're not trying hard enough. As the story unravels we get to know Nina very well. From her relationship with her children, ex husband, boyfriend and the man she had a fling with. We learn that although she likes it on Sandling Island she doesn't really know people all that well yet. Not only does her character come to life but also so does Charlie's. From the very start of the book Charlie is introduced to us from her mothers narration as well as conversations with others. It becomes clear that she is an independent young lady who doesn't tell her mother much. But then again what teenager does!
Whilst reading 'Losing You' I found that French's description of all the characters made it more enjoyable. Even the Labrador Sludge came to life and was described very well instead of a fleeting mention. I did feel, however, that her son Jackson didn't come across too well. For an 11 year old he was a bit of a wimp. I know his sister was missing but I thought he came across much younger than he was. He was into his gadgets and technology, which I found believable but overall I found that I didn't warm to him much. Even though Charlie was the one that was missing I felt I knew her more.
The whole book is actually set in one day. There are constant reminders of the time so you're always aware what the time is. Even on the back cover the blurb was all done under times. This underlined the sense of urgency that Nina has in finding Charlie. Then later on it proves useful when Nina thinks back to what happened at different times when she 's trying to puzzle out where Charlie was and what she was doing.
One thing that I wasn't over keen on was there were no chapters just spaces to indicate where a chapter could have been. Even then one section could go on for a long time. So finding a natural place to stop reading sometime proved a bit difficult. It wasn't that much of a problem but for those who read books in small bits on the commute to work could find this annoying.
I wish I could remember other Nicci French books to compare 'Losing You' to but if I'm honest I can't recall anything about them. I wouldn't say this was a riveting read but it was certainly much better than I originally expected. The setting on an island was different to most crime fiction books I normally read so that was good. Plus the narration was from the missing persons mother rather than a detective so this gave it a different perspective on things. Another nice thing is it isn't in a series so you don't need to make sure you're reading books in order. As much as I liked it and would recommend it to others there were a few things that I didn't like. Nina's character at times was a bit unbelievable. I'm not saying that it wouldn't happen but the way she went round 'interviewing' people and trying to find Charlie didn't quite feel right at times. Also there were a few things at the end that I felt hadn't been explained. Obviously I can't say what as it would spoil it for those who want to read it. All I can say is the reason for everything happening didn't seem very plausible.
Overall I would recommend it especially to those who have read and enjoyed previous efforts from Nicci French.
It's no secret that Nicci French is a pseudonym for journalists Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, who, as well as writing the "Nicci French" novels together, also happen to be married to each other. Sounds like a recipe for divorce to me, but it clearly works for them - since the publication of their first novel, "The Memory Game" in 1997, they have produced a further eight successful novels, of which "Losing You" is the most recent. Both Nicci and Sean also write separately - Nicci as a journalist for The Observer - and both have also published novels under their own names. (Some of their novels have been adapted for the screen - you may recall the fairly recent "Secret Smile", which starred David Tennant as a baddie so hide-behind-the-sofa scary that it's not at all clear why the makers of Doctor Who needed to bother with Daleks or Cybermen.)
Anyway. It's the eighteenth of December, a week before Christmas. It's also maths teacher Nina Landry's fortieth birthday, and it's also the day she is due to fly off to Florida for a winter break with her two children and new boyfriend. However, events seem to be conspiring against Nina - car trouble, an unwelcome (and, frankly, somewhat unbelievable) surprise birthday party, and the fact that her fifteen-year-old daughter Charlie has yet to return from a sleepover the previous night. This last, initially just a minor irritation - Charlie is not known for her reliability - quickly becomes a cause for panic as her absence continues.
The police aren't much help . fifteen-year-olds often go missing temporarily, they say, and she's sure to turn up soon. It's not as if she was a young child, after all. In the face of official indifference, an increasingly frantic Nina struggles to find out what has happened to her daughter, retracing Charlie's steps and seeking information and help from Charlie's friends and their parents, her own slightly deranged ex-husband, a discarded lover and his jealous wife, among others.
All the action takes place on Sandling Island, a small community connected to the East Anglian mainland by a causeway. It's one of those places where everybody knows, or at least knows of, everybody else a safer environment, supposedly, where you can go out without locking your door. The atmosphere and terrain of the island are evoked well, and this is one of the strengths of the book.
Nina's mounting panic, which can be all too easily imagined by anyone who is a parent, is well evoked and the story is told almost in "real time" over the course of a single day - eight hours, in fact - enabling the reader to really get caught up in the events. As the entire story is told from Nina's viewpoint, it is easy to identify with her fear and frustration, her feeling that her daughter is hurt or in danger and she is the only person to take this seriously.
As events unfold, the story builds to a genuinely nerve-shredding - and unanticipated - denouement.
Although "Losing You" is undeniably a gripping read, ultimately I found it a bit disappointing. The plot is paper-thin, with not a word of explanation as to why certain characters behaved in the way they did. (Can't really elaborate on that for fear of spoiling the ending, but if you read it, you'll see what I mean.) The police are almost ridiculously inept, leaving any positive action entirely to Nina. I actually wondered if Gerrard and French were under pressure to deliver this novel, as it feels in many ways rushed and unsatisfying even the title is hardly original. I may be completely wrong, of course, but that's how it felt to me, and I didn't feel it measured up to the high standards of some of the previous French novels.
Nonetheless, an engrossing read.
Available for £5.99 from Amazon in paperback; 320pp.
Nina Landry is supposed to be taking her two children on a Christmas holiday today. But the road away from Sandling Island seems littered with obstacles. Most pressing of all, her 15-year-old daughter, Charlie, has yet to return from a night out ...Minute by minute, Nina's unease builds to worry and then panic. Has Charlie run away? Or has something more sinister happened to her? And why will nobody take her disappearance seriously? As a series of half-buried secrets lead Nina from sickening suspicion to deadly certainty, the question becomes less whether she and her daughter will leave the island for Christmas - and more whether they'll ever leave it again.