Last Seen by Joy Kluver

Today you get a review double as Mandie and I share our thoughts on Last Seen, the debut novel from Joy Kluver. So excited for Joy to see this finally out in the world, and would like to say a big thanks to Bookouture for providing an advance copy for review and including the blog in the tour. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Netgalley
Release Date: 26 March 2021
Publisher: Bookouture

About the Book

‘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.

My Thoughts

Last Seen introduces readers to newly appointed Detective Inspector Bernadette (Bernie) Noel who has just transferred to Wiltshire Police from The Met. The idea was to keep a low profile, her first major case makes sure that she is anything but, plunging her straight into the investigation into the suspected abduction of a young girl, Molly. There is no clear motive and no obvious ransom demand, leading to real concerns that there are far more sinister reasons behind the child’s disappearance. Concerns for the police and concerns for her family but a strange level of apathy amongst the residents of the village in which the child lived setting all the alarm bells ringing and letting us know that there is far more to the picture than meets the eye.

Joy Kluver has created a very interesting premise here, one that makes you question just what is happening behind closed doors and why are the locals and the resident of a neighbouring village to loathe to help anyone. It’s a mystery that takes some time to get to the bottom of, bubbling along in the background of an investigation that is full of similar niggles and unanswered questions. The question marks aren’t only raised about the people who are suspect in the investigation but also surrounding Bernie, who clearly has a difficult past and a new DS who is foisted upon her at the start of the investigation, Dougie Anderson. It’s fair to say that the pair don’t always see eye to eye which leads to another layer of conflict at times in a case already fraught with it.

It’s always interesting getting to know a new team and the one that the author has created is as diverse as you could imagine. From seasoned Detectives Noel, Anderson and DS Kerry Allen, to DC Matt Taylor, an intelligent and astute Detective on the fast track program, they probably as different as could be. There is a strong friendship between Bernie and Kerry and it is clear there is real respect there. On the other side of the room you have Anderson who is new, forthright and seemingly capable of rubbing folk up the wrong way. But then there is Bernie. I can’t lie – it took time to settle into her style and her as a character as she is quite impulsive and passionate about the victims, almost too much so some times. There were times when she made rash decisions or comments that made me pause, but all in the pursuit of finding Molly alive. It is clear from the little snippets of back story that we get about Bernie that there is far more to her than we know, and whatever drove her from the Met is also driving her passion and determination in this case, as well as a certain amount of fear and trepidation, so I look forward to seeing that explored in future books.

There are a number of threads to this story, all pulled together quite neatly by the end, but it takes time for that picture to form. Other side cases seek to distract the Detectives from their goal of finding Molly, and there are a number of leads to follow which may or may not lead them towards their goal but which keep readers on the hook. The pacing flows well and tension and pace certainly pick up towards the end as the perpetrators and motives are finally revealed. All questions about the case are ultimately answered, but there are many question marks still hanging over members of this new team and they make me very curious to see how this affects them, and the cases, moving forward.

Mandie’s Thoughts

Last Seen is the debut novel by Joy Kluver and in it we meet DI Bernie Noel and her team. Recently moved to Wiltshire she is returning from her grandfather’s funeral when she is called in to lead the investigation into Molly who has gone missing from a local park. With no witnesses and the residents of the village seemingly unwilling to help she certainly has her work cut out for her. As they chase false leads, they wonder if they will ever find Molly alive and Bernie finds her whole investigation being questioned by her superiors.

Bernie Noel is a bit of a prickly character who hates to feel like she is not in control of a situation, a fact that is proved when she is saddled with DS Dougie Anderson. They seem to butt heads quite a lot at the start but the more you get into the book the more you understand them. Both have things in their past that they are trying to get away from and although you learn more about Dougie’s reasons for why he has been transferred to the team, Bernie’s past remains largely a mystery. There is clearly something there that means she does not find it easy to trust those she does not know, and I am looking forward to possibly finding out why in the future. As we find out during the investigations, even the best kept secrets have a way of making their way front and centre. Despite this, she does appear to have the full support of her team and there is an undeniable friendship between Bernie and DS Kerry Allen that is used to its full advantage when diffusing otherwise tense situations. Her superiors want to trust her with this important investigation but at the same time have doubts that she is committed to the team past this case.

There are a few twists and turns in the book that will keep you guessing as to who is behind Molly’s disappearance and the misdirections just add to the tension, but all questions are answered once the perpetrator and their motives are revealed. I am looking forward to what is in store for Bernie and the team and learning more about all of them and what makes them tick.

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.

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