Wednesday 19 August 2020

The Search Party by Simon Lelic @Simon_Lelic @DeadGoodBooks @VikingBooksUK #TheSearchParty @PenguinUKBooks

16-year-old Sadie Saunders is missing.
Five friends set out into the woods to find her.
But they're not just friends...
You see, this was never a search party.
It's a witch hunt.
And not everyone will make it home alive...

The Search Party by Simon Lelic is published on 20 August 2020 by Viking (Penguin). My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review, and who invited me to take part on this blog tour.

OK, it's admission time. This is the first of Simon Lelic's books that I've read. I have no idea how I've missed this author before, and on investigation, I find a couple of his earlier books hiding away on my bookshelf. There is no doubt at all, that I will be catching up on those books very soon!

Whilst the theme of a missing girl is by no means new, what I absolutely loved about The Search Party was the extremely clever way that the author tells his story. The first page prologue is the transcript from a frantic telephone call made to the emergency services. The reader doesn't know who made the call, or what has happened, but it's a terrific hook. There's no way you can read that page and not carry on. 

The story begins on day six of an investigation into a missing girl. Fifteen-year-old Sadie has vanished from the small town where she lives and is well known and well liked. DI Robin Fleet has something of a reputation within the police force; he's expert at finding those who have vanished, and so he finds himself heading up the investigation into Sadie's disappearance. However, for Fleet, this case brings back painful memories of his own. This is the town that he grew up in and left after a tragedy involving his sister. His mother still lives in the town, he hasn't seen her for many years. Dealing with his own issues and the constant pressure from those above him makes this a tricky and challenging case, he also has the added stress of a failing marriage and a landlady who seems particularly interested in him. 

The reader is told the story through the voices of Sadie's friends. Five young people who decide that Fleet and his team are not doing their job properly, who have listened to the local people who claim that Fleet is influenced by his own experiences.  Those five teenagers,  including Sadie's twin brother Luke decide that they know best and set off, determined to find out what happened to Sadie. However, they may not all return, and those who do, will be traumatised by their experience. 

I was totally gripped by The Search Party. The voices of the teenagers are incredibly well done; so realistic with their constantly changing stories and the way that they remain on the defensive throughout. Teenage voices are so hard to get right and this author has totally nailed it.

Fleet's own story is also intriguing and the reader learns so much about him, as a man and as a police officer; it is a stark contrast the the effusive and excitable narrative of the teen voices and complements the story so very well. 

This is an atmospheric and haunting story that works on so many levels. The sense of place is wonderfully created, with an increasing menacing feel as the teenagers go deeper into the woods, getting out of their depth; with their emotions veering from terror, to panic, to anger. 

The Search Party is an accomplished, polished psychological thriller with characters who are intricately created. Highly recommended.

Simon Lelic is the author of The Liar's Room, The House (a Radio 2 Book Club choice and Observer Thriller of the Month), Rupture (winner of a Betty Trask Award and shortlisted for the John Creasy New Blood Dagger, as well as the Galaxy Book Awards), The Facility and The Child Who (longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger and CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger 2012). The Haven, The Haven: Revolution and The Haven: Deadfall are his first books for young teenagers (11+). 

Simon is married, with three children, and lives in Brighton, England. Other than his family, reading is Simon's biggest passion. He also holds a black belt in karate, in which he trains daily.

You can follow him on Twitter @Simon_Lelic

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