You're Missing Out on The Missing Years by Lexie Elliot (book review)
GENRE: Adult Thriller LENGTH: 374 pages
Ailsa Caulder inherits half a Scottish manse from her late mother. The other half belongs to her father, but he's been missing for nearly three decades. As Ailsa moves into the manse alongside her half-sister strange events begin to occur. Ailsa is convinced the manse is watching them and it wants her to leave
Ailsa is someone who has trouble connecting with others in large part due to her distant late mother and abandonment issues from her father's disappearance. I'll talk about her more in later sections of this review.
Her younger half-sister, Carrie, is essentially a stranger to her as the two did not grow up together. Ailsa wants to build a bridge between them but she has a lot of insecurities about her. There is also a layer of animosity between them, especially on Carrie's side, who is not especially forgiving of perceived slights and was resentful of Ailsa. Their relationship read very realistic and added an extra layer of both heart and tension to the novel.
There was a decent sized cast of supporting characters. There is the hotel manager Ben, neighbor Jamie, Jamie's sister Fiona, their friend Ali, and Fiona's son Callum, among some other more minor townies.
I'm typically one who looks for the isolation trope in thrillers, but I think a larger cast can work well as it widens the pool of suspects. The reader can be more easily misled and is less likely to figure out the culprit early on. I didn't have super strong feelings about any of the characters (besides Callum, who was adorable but I'm also an auntie to a little boy so I may just be biased). I pretty much ranged from neutral to mildly liking them to suspicious.
I never really allow myself to get overly attached to thriller characters because you never know if your favorite might end up being the antagonist. That being said, I'm beginning to discover that something I enjoy in thrillers is small towns since it walks that fine line of feeling semi-isolated while also being full of crazy rumors and gossip that can make the protagonist (and reader) distrustful.
The novel is told from Ailsa's first person perspective. Ailsa had a tendency to personify the manse which is something I don't see done a lot that I actually wish I did more. The only other example I can really think that did this as well (with locations around a city) was a middle grade historical fantasy called Ophie's Ghosts. It's definitely better integrated here, though.
I had a blast reading from Ailsa's perspective because she has such an overactive imagination that bordered on paranoia which added to the feeling of dread I had. I would refer to her as an unreliable narrator. This could have so easily gone south as I've seen it go before where it could be considered as mockery of mental health. I definitely don't think that was the case here, though.
Interspersed between each chapter is a paragraph of Ailsa creating a different story of where her father's life has taken him since he left. I really liked this added touch because it added emphasis to Ailsa's thought patterns. It's also something I can imagine an abandoned child would grow doing.
I almost never correctly figure out the twist in mysteries and thrillers and admittedly am easily mislead. I'm still very new to them as I only dipped my toes into the water last year. So, I'm not the person to tell you that from the 30 or 50 percent mark it was obvious who the culprit was because to me it wasn't. What I can tell you is that I liked how the author had spooky/creepy things happening quite frequently. This led to a sensation of trepidation every time Ailsa returned home.
SETTING AND ATMOSPHERE
The novel is set in the Scottish Highlands and it's no secret to anyone who knows me that I dream of one day visiting Scotland. So, of course the setting appealed to me. I was pleased to find that it really did make me feel like I was in Scotland. There were descriptions of the land's breathtaking beauty and the dialogue included Scottish dialect and slang. The author herself is from Scotland so I suppose that's not surprising.
The novel is very much a haunted house story (whether paranormal or not I'll leave up to you to discover for yourself). It doesn't reinvent the trope/genre but it is plenty unsettling and gruesome. Please be aware that it includes several animal corpses so if that would be triggering to you maybe don't read this.
If you like books like The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware then you need to pick up this book next! Not to mention autumn is truly the perfect season to read a book like this. Elliot excelled in atmosphere and keeping me on the edge of my seat. I found this book via my favorite booktuber, BooksandLala, who made a fall reading recommendations video. She's been my go to source when it comes to finding thrillers so I most definitely recommend checking out her channel!
FINAL RATING: 5 ⭐️
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