Thursday, January 13, 2022

Chloe Cates Is Missing

Chloe Cates Is Missing by Mandy McHugh
2/15/22; 312 pages
Penzler Publishers/Scarlet

Chloe Cates Is Missing by Mandy McHugh is a very highly recommended domestic and psychological drama. This is a wildly entertaining and mesmerizing debut novel featuring a highly-dysfunctional family.

Thirteen-year-old Abigail Scarborough is known as Chloe Cates, a character created by her mother Jennifer for her blog CC and Me. Her mother began packaging, grooming, and filming Abby to be a media star when she was four-years-old. Now it is paying off financially with sponsors and commercial tie-ins. Jennifer controls and creates everything surrounding the image of Chloe. Everything is always full of glitter and everybody knows "CC Spectacular." No one knows Abby Scarborough, though. She's been forbidden to have any presence as herself on social media. Now Chloe is missing. She disappears from her bedroom over night, leaving the window open and her cellphone behind.

No one knows where CC/Abby  is or heard anything, and it looks like she may have ran away or may been kidnapped. The police are called in to investigate and Jennifer turns to social and news media. Detective Emilina Stone who is with the Children and Family Services Unit in Albany, N.Y., responds to the scene and realizes that she knew Jennifer when they were children. Emilina fails to disclose her connection to Jennifer. They share a dark secret but haven't spoken for twenty years.

In this very well-written, compelling novel, the plot develops through multiple points of view, mainly Jennifer, Emilina, and pages from Chloe’s diary. This is a highly-dysfunctional family and they are all brimming with secrets, tension, half-truths, anger, control issues, and more secrets. Once you start reading Chloe Cates Is Missing it will be impossible to stop. It is addictive. Sure, you will want to know what happened to Abby, but you will also be totally engrossed in the secrets and sordid information that is uncovered along the way.

Since many of the characters have secrets, most of them are not especially likable simple because you don't know who you can trust. It all shakes out in the end, but the journey reaching the denouement is full of all sorts of revealing information, suspense, and tension.

So, following the main search is irresistible, but there are a whole lot of subplots swirling around the investigation and search for Chloe/Abby. McHugh handles all of the revelations and twists with ease and the tension and drama keep rising. These people put the dys in dysfunctional. If you have a secret enjoyment of novels featuring dysfunctional families, this novel should be on your to-be-read list. It was a just-one-more-chapter novel and was impossible for me to put down.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of the publisher/author via NetGalley.

No comments: