Books From The Pantry: The Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana: reviewed by Kev Milsom

You disappeared in the autumn of 1982, when the leaves switched their wardrobe from green to burnished brown, and our mother made great pots of jam from the fruit we picked in the garden. I was twelve, with clumsy clothes and National Health glasses. You were fifteen, crazy-haired and willowy’.

As a wannabe successful author it’s always been my personal belief that if I was to complete the very, very, very difficult task of creating a stunning, debut thriller, the novel would need to have various qualities to it. Firstly, it would need to be readable, from the very first sentence and then hold the reader firmly to every page from there on, in much the same way as I was captivated as a teenager by Douglas Adams’ opening line in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, who masterfully allowed us into his thoughts with, ‘Space is big’.

Secondly, the successful debut thriller would need to do exactly what it says on the tin…namely, to thrill the reader and keep them on the edge of their seats. Thirdly, the characters held within the pages would need to be relatable, relevant and non-cardboard-like in their delivery. Fourthly, if I were the author, I would need to hold the readers into that wonderful fantasy ‘grip’, where they become enchanted by my writing, especially all that descriptive stuff that sounds so easy to produce, but actually really isn’t.

Jenny Quintana’s 2017 debut novel, The Missing Girl, achieves all of these above qualities, which is probably why it has been acclaimed so much and been excitedly promoted by publications such as The Sunday Times, institutions such as Waterstones, and even lauded by the formidable sofa-king and queen combo of Richard and Judy.

Let’s start with the plot line. It’s the modern day and Anna Flores is returning to England from her home in Athens, because her mother has passed away. A part of the reason that she resides in Athens is because of long-standing fragilities within the family home, especially since the mysterious disappearance of her elder sister, Gabriella, in 1982.

Coming home to less-than-sunny England naturally evokes some strong memories for Anna; most of them unpleasant and revolving around what may have happened to Gabriella, over three decades on. In returning ‘home’, Anna must confront remnants of her past, which systematically begins to reopen old doors. Now, with both parents dead and her sister missing, Anna feels very alone, surrounded only by mounting prompts to try and solve the family mystery once and for all.

Jenny Quintana demonstrates, with ease, what a strong writer she is on every page of this novel. As a reader, you find yourself being carried along effortlessly from page to page. Jenny skilfully manages to involve us at every twist and turn and at absolutely no point do we feel left out of what is occurring. There is a gentle build up of pace, to establish the characters and story-line and then, just as we’re feeling comfortable, the pace quickens and we’re carried along to the next, invaluable piece of the ‘jigsaw puzzle’. What’s most important about all of this is that we want to get there, because we care about the main character and her story.

This is a very difficult book to put down and it makes me realise two things. Jenny Quintana can write extremely well. Furthermore, I now want her to finish her next project so I can read more from her creative, skilful mind. Over to you, Jenny.

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