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Missing Girls and a Little Mysticism, in Paula McLain’s Debut Thriller

After being transferred from foster home to foster home, Anna landed with two loving foster parents who instilled in her a love of California’s perilous landscape and the survival skills that come with it, two things that keep her going. will be useful later. But even this history book chapter turns into tragedy. If Anna’s own circumstances seem difficult to follow, it is because they are. An overabundance of names, places and periods sometimes made me mentally rush to play catch-up, but ultimately did not distract me from my desire to discover a thriller. Hang on.

Anna uses her own painful story, including her curiosity about the murder of her high school classmate, to decode how Cameron and the other missing girls “got pulled into the story in the first place, how certain experiences left them vulnerable. , and not just generally either, but to the particular predators that have targeted them.

McLain is unwavering in his insistence that studying the psyche of girls is just as important to an investigation as profiling the villain. Anna refers to the characteristics of early childhood trauma as “bat signals”. She asks an old friend, “We all come into the world with pure, brilliant light, right?” When he accepts, she continues: “But then for some children – one in 10, maybe, even if it could be closer to one in four – really difficult things happen to them, in their own family or through an acquaintance. that this family trusts. Anna explains how these children don’t have the tools to process what they’ve been through, “so silence ensues. Complicity. Shame ”, and finally every“ psychopath, sociopath, sadist, alcoholic, narcissist ”comes running.

Fair warning: some readers may find this line of inquiry uncomfortable. But maybe that’s the point. Trauma, although difficult to watch, Is become insidious when allowed to infect in the dark, invisible.

McLain’s prose is almost lyrical, especially when it turns to the rugged landscape of the California coast. But when it comes to descriptions of death, assault, and abuse, she writes with measured restraint, a choice that forces the reader to accept these horrific events as dark reflections of our real world rather than gratuitous narrative machinations. In fact, McLain intentionally blurs the line between fact and fiction by weaving actual missing person cases into the narrative, a twist that quickly sent me to several rabbit holes across the internet.

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