One for mystery writer's existing fans

Last updated 08:27 17/10/2012

By Alex Barclay (HarperCollins, RRP $35)

A seemingly happy couple turn up at a hotel in a quiet little town, children in tow and looking forward to a romantic dinner.

After checking in and organising a babysitter, Erica and Mark head off for a wedding anniversary dinner and an evening that will change their lives forever.

By the time the night is over, two girls are missing and it is looking more and more like the father of one of those missing girls has something to hide.

This is the third novel in the series featuring FBI agent Ren Bryce, who is dealing with mental illness and a troubled past while also trying to solve the case.

She's brash, not always stable and slightly brilliant when it comes to filtering through the information and clues.

Mixed in with the case of the missing girls is the story of a private eye with family troubles, a series of sex attacks and some nasty events at a disused mental asylum.

When the girls - the daughter of the anniversary couple and her babysitter - go missing, Mark's ex-wife turns up with her new husband and proceeds to tell the world why her ex is such a hopeless father. However, she later admits she doesn't believe what she said, that she was just letting off steam, but by that time police have found some disturbing evidence that casts the father in a bad light.

Later, the return of one of the girls and the discovery of two bodies seems to have everything wrapped up but, naturally, it could never be that easy.

Alex Barclay can always be relied upon to produce a crime mystery with plenty of twists and turns and this novel lived up to those expectations.

Unfortunately, it lived up to them a little too well: it felt disjointed in places with the three or four stories that were intertwined. I had to flick back a chapter or two every now and then just to make sure I had everything in order in my mind.

Of course, it all came together in the end but I think if this had been the first Alex Barclay novel I'd read, I would probably have put it down after the first five or six chapters but I have read her other novels and knew that if I stuck with it, there would be a satisfying and surprising conclusion.

And there was.

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