“Local Gone Missing” in a British seaside town; Austen meets Holmes in ‘Verifiers’ – Sun Sentinel

‘Local Gone Missing’ by Fiona Barton. Berkley, 384 pages, $27

How do you cope when you can’t do the work you love and your identity is tied to? That’s the dilemma that British author Fiona Barton expertly explores in the gripping “Local Gone Missing” with Det. Insp. Elise King.

The police detective is on leave as the senior officer of a major crimes squad in London as she recovers from breast cancer treatment at her home in Ebbing, a small British seaside community. She takes care of herself, gets chemo and eats healthy meals, but what she “needs” is to get back to work, worrying “how am I going to be myself”.

Being on leave didn’t mean Elise forgot her investigative skills. Ebbing has a lot of intrigue. This quiet area has become a hotbed of development with London ‘weekends’ and tourists converging, driving up prices so locals can’t afford a house, hiring ‘cheap labor from outside rather than from the region and arousing outright resentment and hostility. inhabitants. Elise spends a lot of time watching the city from her window ‘like it’s under surveillance again’ and talking with her neighbor Ronnie, a librarian who’s delighted that a real police detective is nearby and they can talk of crime. But Elise aspires to be more than a “sick woman spying on the people of Ebbing.”

Although she cannot be officially implicated, Elise clandestinely investigates the disappearance of 73-year-old Charlie Perry. He was charming, sympathetic, “virtually canonized” by local residents, devoted to his daughter Birdie, whom he is raising in an expensive nursing home and who suffered brain damage in a violent burglary 20 years earlier. But Charlie was also a liar, a trickster, a cheat with an even darker side than scamming people out of their savings.

Barton smoothly shifts “Local Gone Missing” from Elise’s narrative to the story of housekeeper Dee Eastwood, who works for most of Ebbing and knows she is “invisible” to most of her employers. Dee hears and sees everything, but she doesn’t talk.

The fast-paced plot unfolds at a precise pace as Barton’s affinity for believable characters shines in “Local Gone Missing.” Elise is careful to keep her fellow police officers informed of her findings, and her team rejoices, as does the reader, when she returns to work and officially takes charge of the case of Charlie’s disappearance.

Her friendship with Ronnie adds a bit of levity as Elise learns that her affable neighbor is quite a shrewd amateur sleuth. Barton expertly uses police procedural to explore how a smart woman comes to terms with her illness without letting cancer rule her life and how a small town’s transition affects its residents.

“The Verifiers” by Jane Pek. Vintage, 368 pages, $17

Online dating sites have helped hundreds of thousands of people find love and even happy marriages. But these connections can also open the door to scams, thefts and muggings. Step into a company like Veracity, which verifies the information of customers who fear potential suitors are lying, as explored by Jane Pek in her animated debut “The Verifiers.”

“The Verifiers” works well as a look at modern twinning, as a hymn to detective fiction, the story of a tight-knit Asian family and a young woman navigating her attraction to other women.

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A job as an auditor at Veracity appeals to Claudia Lin, who puts her lifelong love of detective fiction to work uncovering the truth about the people clients meet on one of dozens of dating platforms. She considers herself “a love child of the last days of Jane Austen and Sherlock Holmes”.

The two people who run Veracity are pretty full of themselves. They say they are not matchmakers or dating sites, but “relationship management companies”. Truthfulness thrives on being discreet; the customer confidentiality clause includes not even acknowledging the existence of Veracity. Claudia and her clients call it a dating detective agency, a term that arrogant owners bristle at because they prefer “personal investment advice firm.”

The tenacious Claudia gazes enthusiastically at the background of a man who seems to have disappeared. Claudia doesn’t know if it’s the man who’s lying or his client; in less than two weeks, one of them died.

As Claudia knows, “People lie. All the time, especially on the internet, and even more so when it comes to anything with romance potential. Pek’s strong, unusual and somewhat sarcastic voice elevates “The Verifiers”. Its solid plot is enhanced by a witty approach and affinity for the characters. As she investigates, Claudia wonders how Inspector Yuan, her favorite “easy-read” private eye, would handle the situation. Don’t try to order the Yuan series, it doesn’t exist, just part of Pek’s fiction and his delight in mystery tropes.

Claudia’s love friction with her Chinese immigrant mother, who raised her three children alone, adds texture. Her mother wants Claudia to pursue a career in a stuffy office and move in with a nice Chinese man – which Claudia is not interested in.

“The Verifiers” is a sharp start, giving way to more Claudia escapades.

Email olinecog@aol.com.

Alycia R. Lindley