Let me start this review by saying that Missing, the debut novel of author Drake Braxton, is a book in a continual state of fluctuation. The plot and the main characters are forever changing, and if you’re looking for a read that’s going to convey a sense of constancy in any way (physically, mentally or emotionally) then this might not be the book for you. This story includes one of the starkest plot twists I’ve encountered, and it will throw you for a complete loop. How you recover from that will greatly influence your experience with this book.
The story starts dramatically, with Blain Harrington, our protagonist, visiting his home town for his twenty year high school reunion accompanied by his husband, Manny. Very soon thereafter, Manny goes missing. There are signs of foul play, but rampant homophobia and slow-moving bureaucracy lead to a slow and excruciatingly frustrating experience for Blain as he tries to get anyone outside of his circle of friends to care about what might have happened to his husband. Season this situation with the fact that Blain and Manny had been fighting before the reunion and that Blain had cheated on his husband two years earlier and they were still dealing with the aftershocks, and you’ve got the makings for a very emotional ride. And it’s quite a ride, the situation well played out and planned. We learn what we think is the truth, which is shocking enough in and of itself, and then…
Well. Far be it from me to include the major spoiler of the book in this review, so suffice it to say things change in a major way. From the midpoint on, it’s like we’re reading an entirely different book in some ways. The story’s major emotional trial, which is the breakdown of Blain’s life beginning with the loss of his husband, continues, but the reasons for it change. Blain takes actions that paint him in a very unsympathetic light, at times. Don’t look here for sweet romance, easy affection or simple pleasure. Drake Braxton isn’t afraid to have his characters make bad choices, or to make them face the consequences of those choices. For me, this added to the realism of the situation, and after the twist he threw at me in the middle of the book, I appreciated that. Others will not be so sanguine.
Apart from some small sections that I felt suffered from awkward dialogue and phrasing, Missing is a carefully planned and well executed thriller of a novel. It is guaranteed to make you do a double-take at least once, so if you’re tired of smooth sailing, I recommend this book for a mental kick in the pants.
[Reviewed by Cari]