With thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part on this blog tour and to the publishers, Corvus, for kindly sending me a copy of the book. Finally, and most importantly to the author, Lexie Elliott for writing it.
Ailsa Calder has inherited half of a house. The other half belongs to a man who disappeared without a trace twenty-seven years ago. Her father.
Leaving London behind to settle the inheritance from her mother’s estate, Ailsa returns to her childhood home, nestled amongst the craggy peaks of the Scottish Highlands, joined by the half-sister who’s almost a stranger to her.
Ailsa can’t escape the claustrophobic feeling that the house itself is watching her—as if her past hungers to consume her. She also can’t ignore how the neighbourhood animals refuse to set one foot within the gates of the garden.
When the first night-time intruder shows up, Ailsa fears that the manor’s careless rugged beauty could cost her everything…
Lexie Elliott grew up in Scotland, at the foot of the Highlands. She graduated from Oxford University, where she obtained a doctorate in theoretical physics. She now works in fund management in London, where she lives with her husband and two sons. She is also a keen sportswoman. Her first novel, ‘The French Girl’, was published in 2018. Find out more: http://www.lexieelliott.com
Ever since falling in love with the character of Du Maurier’s iconic Manderley many years ago now, I’ve always enjoyed an atmospheric mystery hook that uses the personification of an imposing gothic building. We get a similar impression at the start of ‘The Missing Years’, where the arrival at this eerie, foreboding house sends chills out from the pages. There’s also the added bonus of one of my favourite locations, the sublime Scotland with its wild landscape (although I’d have loved more descriptions of the landscape, but a minor quibble) and then there’s the added use of pathetic fallacy to develop the atmosphere of menace further…so, I was off to a happy start.
‘The Manse’ is the house so creepily described, and it’s a ‘waiting’ Scottish manor in the middle of nowhere; our MC, Ailsa Calder, has inherited half of the building. Half, yep…the other half belongs to her father and the problem there, is that he went missing twenty-seven years ago. The second problem is she is unable to sell it.
Instantly, Ailsa has the impression that the house is watching her and it’s not a welcoming vibe! We’re soon into lost childhood memories and nerve jumping cracks as a branch suddenly snaps of an oak tree with hidden rot at its core; we soon question what is rotting at the heart of this house. The discordant scene is set and we’re ready to find out what this is all about; it did remind me of the start of some creepy supernatural horror film, particularly with its gothic undertones.
After an unwelcome night-time visitor, more mysterious events continue; Ailsa becomes increasingly unsettled in the house. The local community is also watching her, and some are more welcoming than others. Events take an even more sinister turn when human remains are discovered in the house and Ailsa begins to question her own senses. The events of the past start to catch up with speed and who to trust becomes the unsettling and overriding fear; who means her harm and who can she trust?
‘The Missing Years’ for me, is, at its heart, a book about the past and its effects on future lives. There’s also the intriguing mystery of what happened to Ailsa’s father many years ago, and the entrance of a ‘Christie’ collection of supporting characters gathered in the local village pub, where the thriller begins in earnest. I liked the eclectic mix of personalities and Elliott is successful in slowly isolating Ailsa from each one at different points as the story builds. Now pace, I think this is where there may be division; this book has a steady pace all the way through – for me, I was happy with this. I read it on a Sunday afternoon and into the evening and enjoyed the rolling pace up until the climax – which again is not overly pacey, but I don’t think it needed to be. For me, this helped it stay in the realms of the believable, by not going into the ‘too far-fetched’ category that I’ve seen on several occasions, which often only serves to alienate the reader. When you have a supernatural element to your story, I think you need to keep your action and characters more grounded, and this is what Elliott does well.
Overall, it’s a strong yes from me; this book will be staying on my bookshelf. A solidly well-written, entertaining supernatural mystery thriller. Creepy, tense and memorable.
REMEMBER BUY FROM YOUR LOCAL INDEPENDENT BOOK SHOP IF YOU CAN 🙂
OTHER BOOKS BY LEXIE ELLIOTT
They were six university students from Oxford–friends and sometimes more than friends–spending an idyllic week together in a French farmhouse. It was supposed to be the perfect summer getaway . . . until they met Severine, the girl next door.
For Kate Channing, Severine was an unwelcome presence, her inscrutable beauty undermining the close-knit group’s loyalties amid the already simmering tensions. And after a huge altercation on the last night of the holiday, Kate knew nothing would ever be the same. There are some things you can’t forgive. And there are some people you can’t forget . . . like Severine, who was never seen again.
Now, a decade later, the case is reopened when Severine’s body is found in the well behind the farmhouse. Questioned along with her friends, Kate stands to lose everything she’s worked so hard to achieve as suspicion mounts around her. Desperate to resolve her own shifting memories and fearful she will be forever bound to the woman whose presence still haunts her, Kate finds herself buried under layers of deception with no one to set her free . . .