I’m so excited to be part of the blog tour, hosted by Random Things Tours, for “The Missing Years” by Lexie Elliott. It is an excellent read that was just released on June 6 in the UK by Corvus. Berkley released it here in the U.S. on April 23.
Ailsa Calder has just missed her mother’s funeral.
Hoping to make up for it, she returns to her childhood home in the Scottish Highlands, inviting her half-sister Carrie (who shares the same unstable artist mom, Karen) to live with her. This is a great setup for Carrie, an actress who’s starring in a play in nearby Edinburgh and needs lodging. Ailsa hopes that she and Carrie can build a stronger relationship in the process.
Ailsa, a successful TV news field producer who’s in a loveless long-term relationship with a coworker, would eventually like to sell “The Manse” and move back to London. But there’s a problem — half of the property belongs to her father Martin, a jeweler who disappeared 27 years ago while a diamond-buying trip. Ailsa was only 7 at the time. She needs to come up with a theory as to what happened to him so she can get a Proclamation of Death that will allow her to sell.
In the meantime, it appears the Manse either doesn’t like Ailsa, or someone in town wants her out of there (or it’s a combination of both). In recent years it’s been rented out, and reviews on TripAdvisor suggest it’s haunted. Doors open and close on their own, animals are spooked by the place and items throughout the house are disturbed. It also seems that someone has been coming in without permission. And then Ailsa starts finding “presents” around the house that are more than a little unsettling.
Everyone has their opinions of what Ailsa should do with the house, including her new group of friends — all offspring of friends of her parents — that she’s not quite sure she can trust. Central to this group is Fiona, a troubled young woman who’s obsessed with the Manse. Ailsa can’t stand Fiona, but is enchanted by her 7-year-old son Callum, a spirited yet tender child who seems to have inherited some of his mother’s intuitive ideas about the Manse. There’s also Ben, the charismatic manager of the local hotel; Jamie, Fiona’s begrudging half-brother; and Ali, the beligerent son of the jeweler who employed Martin.
All Ailsa wants to do is figure out what happened to Martin so she can get the hell out of the Manse and get on with what’s left of her complicated life back in London. She might get answers, but will she actually be able to leave?
“The Missing Years,” Lexie Elliott’s second novel, is a story of old secrets and alliances among friends, and the strange and tenuous bonds that exist in families. At the center of it all is a house that has seen a lot of drama over the years.
The suspense throughout this book rolled out just quickly enough to keep me satisfied, and just slowly enough to leave me wanting more. There are some interesting side stories tucked into the novel, loose threads I wanted to pick up and follow to see if they led anywhere. Not all of them do, directly, but every bit of information Elliott shares about the Manse and the people who darken its doors lends to the overall mystery.
Each chapter ends with one of Ailsa’s ideas about Martin’s whereabouts. They start out with theories about fake passports and new families in foreign countries and get more bizarre — and closer to the truth — as the story unfolds.
There are some super creepy twists near the end of “The Missing Years,” sort of a cross between “The Girl on the Train” and “Flowers in the Attic” (which I’ve never read but have heard enough about). Just when I think I’ve recovered from one plot twist, BAM! Here comes another. The story definitely had my head spinning by the time I reached the last chapter or two.
On the whole, “The Missing Years” had me hooked until the end — an end which still has me scratching my head in the best way possible.
I received a digital advance copy of “The Missing Years” from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the author
Lexie Elliott has been writing for as long as she can remember, but she began to focus on it more seriously after she lost her banking job in 2009 due to the Global Financial Crisis. After some success in short story competitions, she began planning a novel. With two kids and a (new) job, it took some time for that novel to move from her head to the page, but the result was The French Girl, which was published by Berkley in February 2018.
When she’s not writing, Lexie can be found running, swimming or cycling whilst thinking about writing. In 2007 she swam the English Channel solo. She won’t be doing that again. In 2015 she ran 100km, raising money for Alzheimer Scotland. She won’t be doing that again either. But the odd triathlon or marathon isn’t out of the question.