This installment stands on its own, seamlessly introducing characters old and new. Chapman elegantly handles a sizable cast of nuanced suspects and good guys, which boosts readers’ interest in the whodunnit puzzle up another level. Intrepid, empathetic journalist and podcaster Ella blasts the stereotype of a tailored newspaper woman—her friends tease about her uncontrollable hair and austere apartment—while the inscrutable yet deep-hearted Hunter is a refreshingly three-dimensional cop who can’t decide whether he’s attracted to Ella and her green eyes. Another engaging character, Sara, David’s daughter with an ex-wife he cheated on, almost steals the show with her Harriet-the-Spy habits and lonely personality that endears her to Ella.
Chapman never wallows in depressing predictions about the missing child. Instead, the tone honors parents’ fear without straying into the morose or punishing. “Liam… [tried] to keep the heaviness from overpowering the slim thread of hope” reflects the extent of depicted worry. Literary sleight-of-hand comes naturally to Chapman, and the culprit could be one of many poker-faced or temperamental suspects as in any worthy mystery-thriller. A tryst with an escort, a traumatizing roofie, a naive vigilante, and plenty of delectable surprises make When Last Seen a treat for mystery readers.
Takeaway: Procedural and mystery lovers will enjoy the puzzle and appealing cast.
Comparable Titles: Kathy Reichs, D.S. Butler.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A