Last Seen by Joy Kluver #BookReview #BooksOnTour

‘A little girl is missing from under her mother’s nose. She’ll be scared and vulnerable – if she’s still alive. But no one is helping us search. No one wants to give us information. No one even seems surprised. What’s going on?’

Detective Bernadette Noel came to this quiet rural corner of south-west England from London to lie low after a high-profile prosecution led to death threats against her family. But she has barely settled in when the call comes. A woman’s voice, shrill with terror and thick with tears: ‘Help – it’s my daughter, Molly – I only had my back turned for a minute… She’s gone!’

A child abduction is about as far from lying low as it gets, and her boss wants to assign a different detective. But there’s no way Bernie’s not taking the case – she can’t miss this chance to prove herself.

Five-year-old Molly Reynolds has been snatched from the playground in the village where she lives. Normally in cases like this the community is an asset – eager to help search and full of local knowledge. But although Molly’s mother Jessica is in anguish, the other villagers don’t seem to want to know.

As details emerge, Bernie discovers a possible link to a shocking crime that has never been solved, and which the locals have never forgotten. But what exactly is the connection to Molly’s abduction? Cracking a cold case is the only way to find out – and meanwhile time is running out for Molly.

A dark and compelling crime thriller that will have you reading late into the night. If you like Val McDermid, D.S. Butler or Angela Marsons, you’ll love Joy Kluver.

I am honoured to be opening the blog tour for Last Seen, particularly as today is Publication Day! Many thanks to Joy Kluver and Bookouture for inviting me and for my advance digital copy of the novel, received through NetGalley.

I have long been a fan of Joy Kluver's excellent book reviews on her blog and as we often seem to have similar taste in books, I've been eagerly anticipating her own debut. Last Seen is the first in the Detective Bernadette Noel series and is intriguing both in terms of the mystery and as an introduction to characters I am looking forward to following in the future.
Bernadette - Bernie - is keen to prove herself, having spent two years in the accelerated programme to become a Detective Inspector and as the novel progresses it becomes clear that she was forced to leave the Met and move to Wiltshire following a case which resulted in her and her family receiving death threats. I know the county quite well and thought the sense of place was rendered superbly, demonstrating a real motivation to establish immersive authenticity. When a young girl is reported missing, Bernie knows a successful outcome would be a significant boost to her career but conversely, failure will result in her superiors and colleagues questioning whether she was ready to lead such a high-profile investigation. I think it's vital to have a strong introduction to the main character and that is certainly the case here. Bernie is grieving the very recent loss of her beloved grandfather and the insights we are given into both her personal and professional life are fascinating. Joy Kluver reveals enough about her to ensure she feels a well-rounded, believable woman while holding enough back to keep readers wanting to discover more..
She appears to already be developing a close bond with her Major Crime Investigation Team and I particularly like the friendship she has with her shrewd Detective Sergeant, Kerry Allen. Meanwhile, her fast-tracked Detective Constable, Matt Taylor has almost as much to prove as she does and it's clear he has the potential to be an essential asset to her team. These three have undoubtedly formed a relationship built on mutual respect and trust but the newest member, DS Dougie Anderson is a far more perplexing addition. Although there is definitely a spark between him and Bernie, it still remains to be seen whether he would be good for her. He is a brilliant character; utterly infuriating one minute, then an important ally the next. I have no idea what sort of person he'll ultimately turn out to be and there are concerning revelations about him here but I'm keen to see how his character is developed in the future.
One thing that can't be disputed is their combined resolve to discover what has happened to missing five-year-old, Molly Reynolds, or their desperate desire to find her unharmed. The mystery of her disappearance is gratifyingly compelling and there are several false leads and red herrings to hoodwink detectives and readers, along with brief, puzzling glimpses into the mind of the kidnapper, However, it's the response of the local community which is most baffling, adding further dark intrigue to this absorbing story. 
Joy Kluver never rushes the plot, allowing the investigation to develop at its own pace but cleverly introduces a deadline for Bernie which exacerbates the sense of tension that so clearly drives the team, it becomes almost palpable at times. Although we don't see much of Molly here as she is snatched very early in the novel, I was impressed by the care taken to ensure she and her distraught parents are never overshadowed by the various interactions in the MICT. Bernie might be determined to quash any lingering doubts over her ability to lead such a case but tries to be mindful that the family are always the most significant people, regardless of what else may be happening. 
I loved Last Seen and was engrossed from start to finish; such a well-crafted, thrilling and moving debut surely marks Joy Kluver as an author to watch. I can't wait for more! 

Last Seen is published by Bookouture and can be purchased from Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Google Play, Audible UK and Audible US. You can hear a sample of the audiobook, narrated by Claire Trusson on Soundcloud.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author
Joy Kluver has been an avid reader and writer since childhood. More recently she's been escaping the madness of motherhood by turning her hand to crime novels. A book blogger, she's also part of the First Monday Crime team and if you've been to any of their events it's likely you've eaten one of her cookies. She also organises author talks for her local library. Joy lives in SW London with her husband and three children. 'Last Seen' is her debut novel and the first book in the DI Bernadette Noel series.

Joy is represented by Anne Williams at the Kate Horden Literary Agency.