After a couple of thriller style adventures and a few stand alones (Widow’s Island and The Safe Place), LA Larkin returns with Next Girl Missing, the first book in a more procedural-style series. As with her last two books, set in fictitious American settings, Next Girl Missing is set in a kind of generic middle American suburbia.
When Next Girl Missing opensit is five years since the Poster Killer last took a schoolgirl victim. The perpetrator earned the name for the fake “Missing” posters that went up before each victim was taken, only one body was ever found. Sally Fairburn, an ex-police officer who moved into victim support still works with the families of the missing girls. Sally is dragged back into the case when a dangerous criminal, and the man suspected of being the Poster Killer, offers her information about the real perpetrator in return for her help. But Sally has more on her mind, trying to raise her fourteen-year-old son Paul on her own after her gaslighting and controlling husband (who was also a policeman) left her and finds herself in the crosshairs of the killer when a poster with her own face appears at a local bus stop.
Fairburn may strictly be an amateur detective but she comes with plenty of experience dealing with crime, including being a crack shot, and has retained her connections with the local force. Her Achilles heel is her mental state, trying to overcome the years of belittling and emotional abuse from her ex-husband, detailed in a series of flashback scenes.
There is a lot going on in Next Girl Missing but it also has all of the ingredients of a page turning thriller. A damaged but resourceful heroine, a cold case that becomes hot again, plenty of suspects and danger and some well deployed twists. It all builds to a tense finale when the circumstances become clearer and both Sally and Paul find themselves in danger.
Next Girl Missing is the first in a series with a second book Her Deadly Truth released at the same time and a third on the way. In Sally Fairburn, Larkin has developed a character who can carry a series like this – working outside but with the police force and with the skills to help those who cannot find help elsewhere. And there are some unresolved aspects of Sally’s life and history that will no doubt come home to roost in volumes to come.