Missing: pulp fiction on the spooky side

TheMissingA short novel or a long short story, this well-written gumshoe yarn takes a staple of the old-school PI genre and mixes it with something rather more… sinister. The ex-cop protagonist is, inevitably, something of a loner, and author William Markham pays homage to all the genre requirements – a regular old-style diner for breakfast and copious coffee, a fedora and a trenchcoat, a tame tech geek, a former colleague in the Chicago PD who still trusts him and a lot of former PD colleagues who don’t – oh, and a dead body in his living room.

Man, that bloodstain won’t ever come outta that rug.

Markham pushes the pace along crisply as his detective follows the trail back to a missing girl, her concerned boyfriend who happens to be a low-level politician, and a low-life gang of scumbag kidnappers who may be sex-slave people traffickers. Or they may be something else – as Mason Gray discovers when he’s bitten during a fight and things take a ninety-degree turn into the slightly strange.

The spookynatural aspects of the story never overwhelm the detective narrative, however, and both plotlines pull together seamlessly for a full-on finale. When the dust settles, you understand that this is just the prologue, that there’s a heckuva lot more going on behind the scenes then Gray has uncovered. Yet The Missing is an entirely self-contained story; it hints at more to come but is certainly satisfying on its own.

Well edited and presented, this indie book is as professionally produced as many from mainstream publishers. While most of it feels like familiar ground, it majors on good old fashioned private investigation – Gray makes progress by asking the right questions of the right people in the right way at the right time.

And the weirdly swirling light streams? Well, they are what makes The Missing a little different to every other hard-boiled gumshoe story on the shelf.

An enjoyable romp for folks who like hardboiled pulp and don’t mind dabbling in urban fantasy.
7/10
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Missing by William Markham is available as an ebook or paperback

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