First One Missing by Tammy Cohen

first one missingWoe is me! And me! And me!!

🙂 🙂 😐

A child is missing and a serial killer is on the loose, so everyone is fearing the worst. And, indeed, the worst comes to pass. The parents unenviably now have the right to join Megan’s Angels – a support group set up by the parents of previous victims. Meantime, family liaison officer Leanne Miller should be contacting the earlier victims to make sure they don’t hear about the new murder from TV, but she’s busy lying in bed feeling sorry for herself, so can’t find the energy to make the phone call. Journalist Sally Freeland, however, is full of energy – willing to do whatever it takes to get a story, including sleeping with one of the bereaved parents. But to be fair, she was drunk at the time…

I hold my hands up – this was the final straw that broke this camel’s back and inspired me to write my little pastiche the other week. It also has the distinction of being the last of this trend of misery-fest books concerning murdered children I shall ever knowingly read.

How do you top all the books that have taken us deep into the minds of bereft parents of dead children? Why, by having four sets of grief-stricken parents instead of one! Eight grieving parents, 4 child victims, a gang of scheming paedophiles, two damaged teenagers, one drunken journo and a cop with a mixed-up love life – sing to the tune of the partridge in the pear tree! I’m sorry, but this book drove me over the cliff of misery straight into the sea of hysteria! But really it’s the accumulation – book after book after book about murdered children and the reader expected to wallow in the parents’ grief. This one is no worse than most and better than many of them. I just can’t take any more…

The writing style is OK for the most part, with occasional touches of humour to give it a much needed lift, though with some pretty forced sounding swearing inserted to make it sound gritty… or fashionable… or something. But the characterisation is so clichéd. Did the journalist have to drink and sleep around? Did the female police officer really, really have to be at the centre of a love triangle? So much so, that after four child deaths, when a member of the public tells her the name of a man she thinks is the killer, what does our Leanne do? Get in touch with her boss? Put out an APB? Rush round to interview him before he can potentially kill again? No – she pops outside to phone her boyfriend! Yes, that’s why I’m happy to pay my taxes…

The book is half domestic noir from the perspective of the parents and siblings of the victims, and half police procedural via Leanne. But the investigation element is practically non-existent. I spent a large part of my time wondering how exactly Leanne filled her days. Every time she was asked to do something, she either didn’t do it or sighed as if it was all too difficult. Of course, being sexually attracted to a colleague who happens to be your ex-husband while having an affair with another man must be exhausting, poor little lamb! It’s really unfair to expect us women to be able to balance our emotional traumas with doing a professional job, isn’t it? Poor woman probably has to decide who to vote for every few years too – shame!

Tammy Cohen
Tammy Cohen

The plot is probably the best part. One of the viewpoints is from a man who is in the process of grooming a child as a potential victim, but there is also a suggestion that a paedophile ring might be involved. There are enough twists along the way to keep the reader guessing and it doesn’t go much further over the credibility line than most of these books. However the huge cast of characters meant that I had great difficulty remembering which child had belonged to which set of parents and who was married to whom – there didn’t seem enough depth in the characterisation to properly differentiate amongst them all.

Overall, I was expecting much better, having greatly enjoyed Cohen’s last outing in Dying for Christmas. I’m aware that my increasing dislike of this trend for misery and dead children means that I’m slamming the book a little more than it probably deserves, but even within the domestic noir field I wouldn’t rate this one as better than average.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House Transworld.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

58 thoughts on “First One Missing by Tammy Cohen

  1. I love the way you don’t mince words. And yes, I too am getting a little tired of having my emotions manipulated by missing children and devastated parents.
    Tell you what: when (and if) I finish my novel, I will send it to you – if it passes your stringent test, then I can be sure it’s better than average!

    • Haha! I usually start out trying to be tactful and then somehow it all goes horribly wrong! But I really have had enough of this particular trend, especially when it serves no purpose except ‘entertainment’…

      Ooh, I’d love to read your novel – I bet it will be way above average! And I’m always much nicer to debut authors! Well, nearly always… 😉

  2. I was feeling pretty glum before I read this review and I am now seriously considering taking a large bottle of whiskey to the nearest motorway bridge! Goodness me. How does one keep up with all the murdered kids when the cop and the reporter have such complicated lives? And what’s with the part about her fancying her ex-husband colleague? I mean – really? Pah. Is it too early for wine?

    • Haha! I’m pretty sure all crime readers must have taken to drink by now – it’s the only way to get through some of them! Though I must admit that when the misery is heaped on in bucketloads it has the strange effect of making me laugh – worrying! A love triangle, forsooth!! I don’t know where they get the energy…

  3. I’m glad it went horribly wrong, FF, because I can’t abide gratuitous misuse of children in fiction, even more so since i have become a doting granny – not to be confused with a grannie in her dotage btw 😉 This is one to avoid for me. Thanks for the heads up 🙂

    • Haha! You’re clearly far too young to be a grannie! 😉 Yes, I don’t mind if a book tackles the subject of child abuse in a serious way, looking at some problem in society. But when it’s just for entertainment? Nope, not for me! And there are so many of these books at the moment.

  4. Oh, my, FictionFan! I can see all too clearly that I absolutely must start drinking far too much, sleep with a lot of people and generally feel awful about it all if I’m to take part in modern life. Now, of course, my daughter is grown, so there’s not the ‘I hate parenting’ thing, or the ‘I’m guilty because my child was abducted’ thing. But still, I think if I really plunge into it, perhaps someone will write a novel about me! 😉

    In all seriousness, I completely understand your feelings. I’ve heard good things about this one – about the plot, anyway – but it does seem to be far too much following a pattern. Add the stereotypical character reactions to life, and that’s enough for me…

    • Hahaha! I’m sure it’s not too late to make your daughter hate you if you really worked at it! You could steal her boyfriend one night when you’re drunk – that should do it! And pretty much ensure you a starring role in a novel… 😉

      Yes, as these books go this one is fine, really, but how many of these books do we need all at the same time? I’m beginning to think publishers must sent out a blueprint at the beginning of the year telling the authors what their books must contain. But I’m sure from feedback I get on Amazon and here that more and more people are as fed up with these trends as I am. Of course, that means only people who like these books still read them so they get glowing reviews – but from an ever smaller group of readers, I suspect.

  5. *laughs* Awesome review! I don’t know. Books for of horrid things would put me in a horror mood, too. Or make me sail on the sea of hysteria.

    I suppose it doesn’t have a happy ending then?

    And look at her! That smile tells everything.

    • *laughs* Thank you! You’d like it if I only read books I hat, wouldn’t you? The sea of hysteria can be a fun place though – so long as one manages to avoid the icebergs of despair!

      *laughs* Not for the murdered children anyway…

      She looks so sweet… huh!

      • Yes, I would like that. *said like Denathor* No, but your rips are fantastic! The Titanic wasn’t able to do that, I hear.

        Poor things. You should’ve saved them.

        She does not look sweet! She looks…vicious!

        • *laughs* Thank you – I’ll see what I can do then! Well, that singing would have driven anyone to despair…

          Oh, their parents were so awful they’re probably happier in the afterlife…

          *laughs* She probably only wrote the book to annoy me…

  6. Well, you know I abandoned Ms Cohen last year, a book club read, because, however witty it was meant to be i was fed-up to the back teeth of abused women being victimised by predatory men, so however it provided a twist on the genre, I couldn’t read the humiliation. So it’s highly unlikely, that, not having the stomach for abuse of grown women I am going to be attracted by small children as the victims.

    Perhaps its time for a new genre, with beautiful women and small children ganging up on their persecuting crime writers!

    • I didn’t mind in Dying for Christmas so much because the woman was pretty much as wicked as the man, but in general yes, I’m fed up with the whole abuse thing, whoever’s at the receiving end. I like quick clean murders! With good old-fashioned motives like greed or jealousy!

      Now, I reckon that book would sell!

      • Absolutely – murder is a dreadful thing, but those old fashioned motives MIGHT be the ones than the non-murdering normal people (most of us!) might perhaps come to understand – we all have, at times, ‘murderous impulses’ what might make someone act on them?? The mind of the psychopath, the serial killer, is a long way outside (fortunately) most of our kens. I don’t want to enter into it – particularly when it’s written with gratuitous intent

        • I don’t mind as much as you do – I just get fed up when every book has the same themes. The occasional serial killer book can be fun if it’s done well, and doesn’t dwell on the salacious details. And I don’t mind a ‘gritty’ story if the author is genuinely tackling a serious subject. But it’s graphic abuse or emotional manipulation for fun that annoys me, and the fact that they all jump on the bandwagon of whatever the last successful book was. My feeling (and the main reason why I don’t write books) is, got nothing new to say then best say nothing… unless you can write so beautifully that the words themselves become the point. And I fear that’s very rare…

          • Well, I would agree with you on that last couple of sentences. I did have someone (on Amazon) write a scathing comment ( I think it was the author or his pet budgie) on a critical review (it must have been a Vine, and my own scathing distaste came out because I had had to plough through it) Anyway, having done the usual examples of style and offenses against, the commenter said I was clearly suffering from green-eye and was obviously an unpublished author with a drawer full of rejection slips. I didn’t bother to engage, but the comment made me laugh a LOT, as one thing none of my drawers contain is manuscripts. Space is at a premium and they are stuffed full of clothes. I aspire to minimal living, but, alas my book hoarding spills into other areas.

            It’s NOT being a writer which makes me adore good ones – overwhelmed by gratitude and appreciation.

            With regard to gritty stories, indeed, if the author is genuinely tackling a serious subject, I do think a lot of those embracing grit are just getting off on salaciousness, and there’s a kind of over-indulgence of gore and grue. Less is often far far more

            • I always love the attitude of some authors, and even some other reviewers, that one should never criticise any book unless one has written one own’s best-seller! I don’t know how often I’ve had a comment to the effect that if I’m so smart why don’t I write my own. I guess we could take that into every other field – can’t criticise a meal unless I’m a cordon-bleu cook, can’t complain when the surgeon actually cuts off the wrong leg unless I can do brain surgery! It’s the authors in particular that annoy me (though they make me laugh too). In what other field of work do people really expect constant uncritical praise when they do a mediocre job? Ah, well!

  7. Damning with faint – or no – praise. Maybe we could start a petition to ban books about abused children for, say, 10 years. There’s a serious point in there somewhere – I know quite a few children who are afraid to ask for or accept help when they need it because books, TV and films tell them that all adults are potentially dangerous, and really, we aren’t.

    • Yes, I was actually thinking while reading this much the same – or the opposite – to what I was thinking with the Rebus book. Where Rankin makes it clear that shootings are rare here, all these books would make you think that it’s unlikely for a child to make it through to adulthood at all. How many child murders are there in this country, especially if you limit it to non-family murders? I bet I’ve read about more child murders in the last few months than have actually happened in about ten years…

      • Believe it or not, the number is so small that the figures aren’t collected separately, but the current murder rate is 2.30 per 100,000 people per annum – since 2000, there have been 1342 murders in Scotland, the vast majority of which have involved drink – and not children. 1 is too many, but panic-mongering doesn’t help. ( how did I acquire the sort of life that means I need that sort of information at my finger-tips?).

        • Yes, I knew it must be tiny because any time it happens it’s such huge news, which wouldn’t be the case if it happened often. I know – it’s the same with abuse though. Of course it happens too often, but it’s still the exception rather than the rule, which you wouldn’t know if you only read crime novels or read the tabloids…

    • It started out quite an interesting little sub-genre but has gone progressively downhill into just being misery-fest territory – in my opinion, of course! Some people still love them…

Please leave a comment - I'd love to know who's visiting and what you think...of the post, of the book, of the blog, of life, of chocolate...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s