Missing White Woman by Kellye Garrett

3 Mins read
Missing White Woman by Kellye Garrett UK front cover

Some book titles are enigmatic, leaving you puzzling until a clue as to their meaning perhaps appears at an unexpected moment; others make no sense at all, even after you’ve turned the final page. Then there are those that lay it out, pure and simple – and I think you can guess which category Missing White Woman falls into.

Therefore, it will come as no surprise to learn that a caucasian female who has disappeared is central to the plot of Kellye Garrett’s standalone novel, set in New York. Actually, that’s only true up to a point, because dog walker Janelle Beckett isn’t missing for long…

Our protagonist is Breanna ‘Bree’ Wright, who is in NYC for a romantic weekend with her boyfriend, Tyler ‘Ty’ Franklin. Financier Ty has booked a swanky Airbnb in Jersey City, just across the Hudson from the Big Apple, and Bree is excited to spend time with a man she has only known for a few months. But Ty works for JP Morgan, and his work keeps intruding into their time together. Nevertheless, he convinces her to take an extra day off work – and that’s when our Missing White Woman suddenly isn’t missing any longer.

Instead, Bree, a heavy sleeper, comes downstairs to find Janelle’s battered and lifeless body in the hallway of her rented weekend home – and Ty nowhere to be found. Bree is black, alone in a strange city and no stranger to the police and their way of twisting things around to fit their own narrative. In short, she’s terrified that they will try to pin the murder on her.

To her rescue comes a high-flying black female lawyer, who breezes in upon a waft of expensive perfume, propelled by killer designer heels and clad in an expensive made-to-measure suit. But Bree didn’t ask for help, and although she needs someone to extricate her from this situation, she is reluctant to engage with A Kristine McKinley. It’s soon clear that these two women have a history and unfinished business, providing insight into why Bree is someone who has made a habit of flying under the radar for so long.

To complicate matters even further, a beauty blogger with a huge following has taken up Janelle’s cause. Billie Regan has garnered an army of fans by creating make up tutorial videos but now she sets herself up as a champion of the missing woman and calls upon her followers to help her solve the case. The influence of social media is an important plot strand throughout this book, highlighting the power of the keyboard warrior and how much damage they can cause.

Garrett also turns the spotlight on the day-to-day experiences of a single black woman, who from the off is treated with suspicion by the largely white inhabitants of the select street in which the Airbnb rented by Ty stands. It’s something of a wake-up call for this reviewer, a white woman whose experiences in life are far away from those of a character who is often being unfairly judged by others purely because of the colour of her skin. The author handles this with skill, and certainly left me thinking.

Bree is a likeable character, a little naive but someone who will stand her corner when needed. And that feistiness is going to be vital if she is to get through this without ending up behind bars. She is scarred by things that happened in her past and by a mother who is anything but supportive, and getting inside her head is both illuminating and a little scary.

This book works best when recounting the problems that Bree is faced with, and you’ll find yourself shouting encouragement from the sidelines. But there’s much more to Missing White Woman than that, and the myriad plot strands can feel a little overwhelming as the pages turn. Where is Ty? Who killed Janelle? What is Billie Regan really up to? Is the flashy lawyer to be trusted? Rest assured, all of these questions and more will be answered in a book that provides some unforeseen twists too, but it may take you a while to process it all.

Two murders in New York also highlight social inequalities in Kevin G Chapman’s The Other Murder.

Simon & Schuster

CFL Rating: 4 Stars

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