Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly MacMillan is a 2015 thriller that follows what happens in the days following the disappearance of eight-year-old Ben, the son of a divorced (and bitter) mother named Rachel Jenner. While walking in the woods one day, Rachel lets Ben run ahead to get to the swings. When she catches up a few minutes later, he is nowhere to be found. Set in England, the book alternates between the point of view of Rachel, who is shattered and guilt-ridden, and a detective named Jim, who is assigned to the case.
As we follow the developments, including vicious media scrutiny of Rachel, the exposure of secrets, and police missteps, the list of possible suspects grows. This book is not high literature – at times I felt like it was written to be made into a TV show. However, it was an entertaining weekend read and kept me guessing until almost the end. If you want a few more “missing child” thrillers on your list, keep reading!
Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman begins with two young Baltimore girls who are kicked out of a birthday party. On their way home, they see a baby in a stroller with no one else around, and a disturbing crime results. The story jumps ahead to the girls’ 18th birthdays, when they are released from juvenile detention for their convictions in the baby’s death. As soon as they’re out, another child disappears, and they are the obvious suspects. To find the missing child, we must find out what really happened all those years ago.
The Stranger on the Train by Abbie Taylor is another thriller set in England. A young single mother named Emma is struggling to raise her baby Ritchie. One evening, her worst fears come true as she is separated from her child in the London Underground. Upon reporting the situation to police, Emma’s story is doubted and she doesn’t know who to rely on. Flashbacks show Emma’s life prior to becoming a mother, as the story develops day by day.
The Last Child by John Hart is about two young teens named Johnny and Alyssa. They are twins who had a great life, until one day Alyssa disappeared. A year later, Johnny is still devastated and finds that no one but him believes that Alyssa is still alive. He takes on the search himself, risking his own safety to try and find his sister. A detective frustrated with the unsolved case joins him in the search, but they end up facing twists and turns they couldn’t predict.