Missing Rebecca (list price $17.99)
John Worsley Simpson’s latest book, his fifth novel, Missing Rebecca, is a story of death and deception. After a whirlwind romance, Liam and Rebecca marry, knowing almost nothing of the other’s background. Only months later, on an afternoon shopping trip to a mall in the Buffalo, New York, suburb of Cheektowaga, Rebecca vanishes, seemingly abducted.
Or did she make herself disappear? Was the marriage a sham? Was Liam a dupe? This is a novel of high crimes and dark shadows, involving the immensely profitable drug industry in which exclusive access to the market for a medication can mean billions of dollars, and holding onto that exclusivity might lead to lies, deceit, corruption, payoffs, and even murder.
I was torn over Missing Rebecca. Admittedly, it has an interesting, intriguing, and, truth be told, a storyline that is not unbelievable. It has the elements of a gripping, intense suspense novel. Unfortunately, those elements didn’t completely gel and, thus, John Worsley Simpson left me wanting a little more from Missing Rebecca.
As an individual with a background in editing, I admit that I might be a tad more critical than the next person when it comes to writing mechanics. For instance, I scratched my head a little when I read “…dragged him backward on his heels like a mannequin” and “He didn’t take the driver’s head off, but he may well have killed the man, who tumbled off the ATV, twisting the handlebar so the thing ran into and got stuck on a thick bush.”
Those are just two examples that struck me as a former editor. That being said, however, I found myself well into Missing Rebecca in no time at all. Let me be clear: I’ve attempted to read “bad” books before and I can’t put myself through the torture. So, I have to be fair and say that this is a book with potential. I found myself cruising through chapter after chapter, but with my critical (sometimes overly critical) eye, I found myself nit-picking at portions that were confusing or too wordy.
Read an excerpt of Missing Rebecca:
“Okay.” The detective moved the computer mouse on the table and the screen lit up. He clicked on a folder and a video player opened; another click and the video began to play. The first scene was inside one of the mall’s entrances. In a moment, Liam and Rebecca entered the frame from the bottom of the screen, their backs to the camera.
“Is that you and your wife?” Welburn asked.
“It is, yes. It was a cold day, like today, so Rebecca wore her red, quilted ski jacket. I wore my pea coat and watch cap—hello, sailor,” Peters said, grinning vacuously, and immediately felt stupid.
“Sure. And right away you split up.”
“Rebecca likes to shop alone, which is great. As men, you must appreciate that.”
The detectives exchanged a glance and then nodded politely.
They ran the video for about an hour, various cameras picking up Rebecca in her bright red coat and ink-black hair. One scene showed Rebecca heading past the camera toward the mall exit, carrying a Lord & Taylor bag. The next scene showed Peters carrying a huge Hugo Boss bag, passing Rebecca as she re-entered the mall empty handed. He waved to her as he passed, and she turned down a side corridor that led to the restrooms.
“I took the jacket and pants I’d bought out to the car,” Peters explained. “Rebecca had a couple of outfits in her bag. She left them in the car, too. I found them later.”
Almost instantly, because of the truncating of the video by the technician, a man wearing a long, black overcoat, its collar turned up, and a sloping-brim, Irish-style, tweed hat appeared from the bottom of the screen, his back to the camera, as if he had just entered the mall. He was carrying a duffel bag. His shoulders were hunched and he walked with long, quick strides, so that he was around the corner and in the restroom corridor in a few seconds.
Welburn paused the video.
“Let me explain. I’ve watched the video before, a few times. The original showed this corner of the hall for some time. There is an emergency exit at the end of the corridor to the restrooms, and there are a couple of utility rooms. If the exit door had been opened, an alarm would have sounded, and a signal flashed in the security room. It wasn’t opened. There’s no camera in the restroom hallway, by the way. It’s only a short hall, fully visible from the main hall. Anyway, you’ll see when I start the video again that two people—the guy in the long coat—and a woman in a long coat and a wide scarf covering her hair and most of her face come out of the restroom hallway. The guy is holding the woman’s elbow. Okay, watch.”
As soon as the detective restarted the video, the couple he had described came hurrying around the corner in the direction of the camera. The hat and collar of the man concealed his face, as did the woman’s scarf cover hers. He seemed almost to be pushing her. He wasn’t carrying the duffel bag.
“Now, the entire rest of the video shows no one in a red ski jacket, or even anyone roughly resembling your wife come out of that corridor, or from straight down the hall.”
“That must have been her.”
“With the long-overcoat guy? Yeah we think so. The height looks about right, for instance. And—I’m sorry about this, but we checked with the lost-and-found at the mall, and they had a red ski jacket that looks exactly like the one your wife was wearing. It was found in the ladies washroom in the hallway we’re looking at. And the duffel bag the guy was carrying was in the hallway.”
John Worsley Simpson is a crime fiction writer. John was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, England, emigrated to Canada at the age of four, and grew up in Toronto. Simpson has worked as a reporter and editor in major newspapers and news services in North America, England, and Ireland. He is married and lives in Newmarket, Ontario. You can follow Simpson on Facebook and Twitter.
I was not compensated for writing this review. I received a digital copy of Missing Rebecca for review. My opinion is 100% honest and 100% mine.