The Search Party

Simon Lelic

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Sixteen-year-old Sadie Saunders is missing, last seen six days ago, and no stone is being left unturned in the attempt to find her. The local community thinks that she’s dead, and they’ve decided just who’s to blame – her troubled boyfriend, Mason.

Sadie’s clique of friends, including Mason, think that the search is focussing in the wrong area, so set out to find her themselves. They know the local area in a way that the adults never could, and they know Sadie better than anyone. For Mason, it’s doubly important that he finds her, not only because he loves her, but to prove that he’s not a killer.

When the police are informed of the unofficial search party, it adds to their problems: they need to find the missing teenager, dead or alive, and now they need to find the group of five who’ve gone after her. When one of the kids turns up dead, Sadie still missing, an increasingly hostile community, and with pressure from above to solve these cases quickly – even if it means putting an innocent child in prison – the police are left to untangle a web of half-truths and lies.

The Search Party is a taut thriller which ably depicts the restriction of childhood in small town England. Most of the characters are well developed, and nobody is above suspicion. Sadie’s small group of friends contain common teen tropes – the princess, the mother’s boy, the mean girl, the bad boy, etc – but it’s not done in a clumsy fashion, and the tropes don’t detract from the story. Neither does the secondary narrative, regarding the lead police officer’s return to the hometown that he abandoned at the age of 17 after a family tragedy which has haunted him ever since.

Lelic leads the reader down more than a few blind alleys before the end, and the denouement provides all the answers needed. A satisfying read.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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