It's not long before things get a little weird - an old lady says she's seen Melody Chapa, a girl who went missing, and who was presumed murdered, years before.
The thing is... Cara had never heard of Melody Chapa before coming on this trip. But she's sure that she's seen her too.
The insertion of interviews, articles, etc. from when Melody first went missing is great - you really get the impression of learning about these things as Cara does!
There are plenty of twists and turns from one suspect, or one suspected scenario, to another - and it does keep you guessing.
It also examines moral issues around leaving kids in particular situations etc. which was interesting.
Unfortunately, that's about all I can say about the good stuff.
- missing children
- missing people
- child murder
- child abduction
- child neglect
- child abuse
- trial by media
- wrongful imprisonment
There's also some swearing.
OK, to me, this book missed the mark in a lot of ways.
Cara isn't that sympathetic a character, and Tarin Fry - who I guess we were supposed to like? - I actually hated.
Why did I hate Tarin? Because she hates everyone. She just likes to spew bigoted ideas here, there, and everywhere. From ableism to racism, she's your gal. *sighs*
So many 'jokes' and casual remarks missed the mark in this book - as an example:
Cara, Tarin, and Tarin's daughter whose name escapes me, are talking about a toy that belonged to Melody Chapa.
Cara thinks that the girl she saw had a toy that she called by the same name as Melody Chapa's toy, Snowy.
This results in them discussing how that's a name that a lot of kids would give a white toy.
One of them then asks what you would name a black toy.
Tarin's daughter - who is a teenager, not like, a five year old who's picked up adult's bad attitudes or anything - answers 'Nelson Mandela.'
Somehow NO-ONE SEES THE PROBLEM WITH THIS.
I mean, really. REALLY?! That is a racist joke. It's not ok. Simple.
There were several other micro-aggressions and poorly framed characters/plot points related to race.
(E.g., one character's Latino ex-husband, one of the only instances of Latinx rep, is an abusive a**hole; the only black character is both inept at her job and makes sketchy decisions... *sighs*)
It disappoints me when a good author screws up this bad.
My other major issue with this book is the ableism - there's casual ableism against people with mental health problems, dementia, etc.
I have mental health problems, and actually, I'm rarely offended by casually ableist language ('crazy' etc.) though I totally get why other people are offended, but in this case? I was offended.
There was so much stigma against mental health problems here that yes, it offended me. There's only so much leeway I can give people, y'know? And this was more-or-less constant. #NotGood
Also hugely frustrating (and I'm going to have to be vague here to avoid spoilers) was the use of the 'fake disability' trope.
Like - WHY WOULD YOU USE THAT TROPE?! WHY?! Nothing good comes from that trope - it just adds to the impression that people with disability and serious illnesses are 'faking' - WHICH THEY ARE NOT.
Not only that, but the plot became messy as we went along. There was the impression here that Hannah wasn't really in control.
Honestly? If you want to read a missing-child crime novel which covers a lot of this ground - and in a more thorough and controlled way - read Gone Baby, Gone.
That book's not perfect; far from it - not least because Dennis Lehane is a white author who needs to stop using the 'n' word - but it handles things more competently than Did You See Melody? does.
I'm sure in the future I'll read other books of hers, because I know she is capable of writing great books; but I'd be lying if I said that this one hasn't knocked my confidence in her.
I don't mean that in a personal way - you guys know that; on a personal level I have absolutely no problem with Sophie Hannah.
It's just, I was disappointed with this one, and especially with the problematic aspects within it.
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