Two girls go missing, decades apart. What would you do if one was your daughter?
When eight-year-old Grace goes missing from a sweetshop on the way home from school, her mother Emma is plunged into a nightmare. Her family rallies around, but as the police hunt begins, cracks begin to emerge.
What are the secret emails sent between Emma’s husband and her sister? Why does her mother take so long to join the search? And is Emma really as innocent as she seems?
Meanwhile, ageing widow Maggie Taylor sees Grace’s picture in the newspaper. It’s a photograph that jolts her from the pain of her existence into a spiralling obsession with another girl – the first girl who disappeared…
So as well as a title that sends me back to my teenage years and memories of watching Top of the Pops, 99 Red Balloons has everything I look for in a psychological thriller – missing children, family secrets and a story that slowly comes together through the eyes of a number of characters, none of whom seem to be quite telling the truth.
And I got all that and more, with a book with plenty of twists, turns and red herrings plus a “wow” moment about two-thirds in that had me pause for a second so my brain could readjust and rethink everything I had read so far. You’ve got to love those moments and it completely changed the book for me.
Before that, I have to say that it was progressing quite nicely but not setting me on fire. There wasn’t any particular reason for how I felt – it’s a well written book and the characters are well drawn (especially Maggie, who touched my heart a little because of the way her life had turned out) and I could feel the stress Emma and her family felt over the missing Grace and the tension rising as each day passed.
I think it’s because I thought I knew where it was going (I read a lot of these type of books after all). Turns out I was wrong. I had let the slow build at the beginning lull me into a false sense of security, of thinking I knew how everything would end up. Days after reading it, I am still kicking myself for not figuring it out. So, buyers beware, keep your eyes out for the clues I missed and enjoy the ride. I know I did!