Among the Missing

( 7 )

Overview

An accident can end a life.
The same accident can begin one.

 
Three lives collide in the wake of an unforeseeable tragedy. When a bridge collapses in the Highlands of Scotland, dozens of commuters vanish into the freezing river below, swept by the currents toward the sea, and only an amateur video and the bridge’s security camera record their last moments. 

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Among the Missing

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Overview

An accident can end a life.
The same accident can begin one.

 
Three lives collide in the wake of an unforeseeable tragedy. When a bridge collapses in the Highlands of Scotland, dozens of commuters vanish into the freezing river below, swept by the currents toward the sea, and only an amateur video and the bridge’s security camera record their last moments. 

A woman tourist, whose car was filmed pulling onto the bridge seconds before it fell, is assumed to be among the missing. But in desperate need of money, she had sold the car only hours before. Now she can begin life over. Her path leads her to a spartan cabin on the bank of the river where, as Annabel, she is reborn, free from her past. Here she lives with Silva, an illegal immigrant whose predicament is compounded by the disappearance of her husband and their child. She waits for them each day, clinging to hope against overwhelming evidence. 

The two women are befriended by the boatman Ron, and together they create a fragile sanctuary in the shadow of the bridge that has changed their lives. They keep secrets from one another, yet also connect in ways none of them expects. Lost souls all, they struggle to survive, to trust, and to love even as the consequences of the past prove inescapable.

A masterly novel about the invisible ties that bind us to our identities, to our histories, and to one another, Among the Missing soars with the peerless voice of the author described by P. D. James as an “exciting talent.” Morag Joss, with the psychological penetration and the finely wrought prose that are her hallmarks, spins a brilliant tale of damage and reparation, suspicion and salvation.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this haunting psychological thriller from Joss (The Night Following), a recently married middle-aged English couple staying at a Scottish Highlands hotel hit a wall in their new relationship: she's pregnant and he doesn't want kids. Desperate for cash, the unnamed woman manages to sell her car to Stefan, an illegal immigrant living in a rundown trailer with his wife, Silva, and their two-year-old daughter, Anna. Hours later, the nearby bridge to Inverness collapses. When the car is reported missing and the woman is presumed dead, she decides to begin life anew as "Annabel." Overcome with guilt when she realizes that Stefan and Anna died in her car, Annabel goes to Silva's trailer, and the two women become uneasy friends. Meanwhile, Ron, recently released from prison after serving five years for criminal negligence and the third major player in the drama, finds work helping the bridge salvage operation and soon forms an unlikely bond with Annabel and Silva, but one that may not withstand the weight of their shared past tragedies. P.D. James fans will find much to like. (July)
From the Publisher

Advance praise for Among the Missing
 
“This remarkable novel has an abundance of suspense at its core, put forth in beautiful prose that all but glows on the page….The author keeps a jittery tension going as the novel spins toward its violent, grand-scaled finale. Like most thrillers with a literary bent, this one spends time with the thoughts and feelings of the characters. In lesser hands, this can be stultifying, especially if the people aren’t that interesting. But these two women have fascinating inner lives, and Joss details them in vivid, propulsive language.”

—Booklist (starred review)

“A haunting, harrowing punch to the heart, Among the Missing is flat-out brilliant.  About the secrets we keep, the lives we are desperate to live, and the chances we miss, it’s a psychological dazzler.  Truly, one of my favorite books of this year—or any year.”
—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You

“Morag Joss has composed a thought-provoking pageturner, enwrapped it in beautiful language, and drawn characters you will be unable to shake.  Among the Missing vividly displays both the loveliness and the tragic consequences that can arise from the freedom to start over.  
What Alice Sebold did for grief, Morag Joss has done for reconcilement.”
—David Cristofano, author of The Girl She Used to Be

“Morag Joss is a writer who knows the old truth that genuine suspense comes not from car chases or gunplay, but from the clash of conflicting hearts.  Her latest novel, Among the Missing, is evidence not of a rising talent, but of one already fully formed.”  
—Thomas H. Cook, author of The Fate of Katherine Carr
  
“Vivid, intelligently written and thought-provoking, Among the Missing is a twisty and unputdownable novel.  The high-wire tension builds with such subtlety and finesse that you won't feel the shock of the ending until it's already upon you.”  
—Linda Castillo, author of Breaking Silence
 
"Morag Joss's haunting and beautifully written novel about the disenfranchised will pull you under, into the watery psyches of her characters. Told in their own distinct voices, their stories--individual and collective--will have you riveted to the stunning end."  
—Heather Sharfeddin, author of Damaged Goods
 
"Like a ticking bomb, Morag Joss's Among the Missing peels away the layers of human deception until what we are left with is a picture of ourselves. Among the Missing is the best thriller I've read in years.  Stunning and horrific, gentle yet terrifying, all at the same time. I loved this novel."
—Robert Ellis, author of The Lost Witness

“This beautifully nuanced tale of intertwined lives, loves and losses should be read slowly, the better to savor Morag Joss’s exquisite prose. I tried…but the inexorable ticking of the tightly-wound plot had me racing to the end.”  
—Vicki Lane, author of Under the Skin

“The harrowing collapse of a Scottish bridge links three lost souls as they lurch toward an even more horrifying finale….Joss builds the relationships among her sad trio slowly, through excruciatingly subtle modulations of tone.  But the ending fully justifies every intimation of imminent doom.”  
—Kirkus

“Joss’ beautiful, evocative novel is filled with tension and suspense….this is a spectacular psychological thriller.”  
—Romantic Times Book Review

Kirkus Reviews - Kikus Reviews

The harrowing collapse of a Scottish bridge links three lost souls as they lurch toward an even more horrifying finale.

Ron, Annabel and Silva are all in their different ways among the missing. Ron, who's just completed a prison term for inadvertently causing the disastrous bus accident that killed a pregnant teacher and six schoolchildren, is working a job for which he has no credentials. Annabel ran away from her 50-year-old bridegroom Colin after he refused to accept any responsibility for the baby she was carrying. Silva has always felt that she was merely the substitute for the baby of her mother's friend, who died while Silva's mother was pregnant. Now, in the aftermath of the catastrophic wreck of the bridge near Netherloch that brought them together to make an ad hoc household in an out-of-the-way trailer, each of them is keeping a secret. Ron, of course, tells no one about his sorry recent past. Annabel doesn't give her real name (it's not Annabel) when she approaches Silva looking for companionship. Nor does she tell her that, desperate for money, she'd illegally sold her rental car to Silva's husband Stefan for £3000 just before he and his daughter Anna set out across the bridge. And Silva doesn't even admit to herself what's clear to the other two: that her husband and child were among the victims. As spring turns to summer and then fall, repair work proceeds on the bridge as Annabel's baby grows within her. It's only a matter of time, however, before the secrets are revealed in a way that guarantees pity and terror.

Joss (The Night Following, 2008, etc.) builds the relationships among her sad trio slowly, through excruciatingly subtle modulations of tone. But the ending fully justifies every intimation of imminent doom.

Kirkus Reviews

The harrowing collapse of a Scottish bridge links three lost souls as they lurch toward an even more horrifying finale.

Ron, Annabel and Silva are all in their different ways among the missing. Ron, who's just completed a prison term for inadvertently causing the disastrous bus accident that killed a pregnant teacher and six schoolchildren, is working a job for which he has no credentials. Annabel ran away from her 50-year-old bridegroom Colin after he refused to accept any responsibility for the baby she was carrying. Silva has always felt that she was merely the substitute for the baby of her mother's friend, who died while Silva's mother was pregnant. Now, in the aftermath of the catastrophic wreck of the bridge near Netherloch that brought them together to make an ad hoc household in an out-of-the-way trailer, each of them is keeping a secret. Ron, of course, tells no one about his sorry recent past. Annabel doesn't give her real name (it's not Annabel) when she approaches Silva looking for companionship. Nor does she tell her that, desperate for money, she'd illegally sold her rental car to Silva's husband Stefan for £3000 just before he and his daughter Anna set out across the bridge. And Silva doesn't even admit to herself what's clear to the other two: that her husband and child were among the victims. As spring turns to summer and then fall, repair work proceeds on the bridge as Annabel's baby grows within her. It's only a matter of time, however, before the secrets are revealed in a way that guarantees pity and terror.

Joss (The Night Following, 2008, etc.) builds the relationships among her sad trio slowly, through excruciatingly subtle modulations of tone. But the ending fully justifies every intimation of imminent doom.

Library Journal
Edgar Award nominee Joss (Funeral Music) slowly but surely builds the tension in this tale of secrets, guilt, and jealousy. A bridge collapses in the Scottish Highlands, and a pregnant woman takes the chance to leave her sad life behind by pretending to be dead. An illegal immigrant waits for her husband and daughter to return, but, unfortunately, they never will. A boatman is riddled with guilt for an event of the past. Their relationships intertwine and ebb and flow, mixing love and suspicion, trust and distrust, and building to an unexpected conclusion. The narration from outstanding voice artists Robin Sachs, Kate Reading, and Cassandra Campbell is wonderfully subtle yet breathtaking. Recommended for all listeners.—Scott R. DiMarco, Mansfield Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385342742
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/21/2011
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 946,717
  • Product dimensions: 9.44 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Morag Joss is the author of several novels, including the CWA Silver Dagger winner Half Broken Things, which was also adapted as a film for U.K. national television. In 2008 she was the recipient of a Heinrich Böll Fellowship, and in 2009 she was nominated for an Edgar Award for her sixth novel, The Night Following. She is currently at work on her eighth novel, Our Picnics in the Sun, to be published by Delacorte Press.
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Read an Excerpt

When Ron was first released, he discovered that prison had made him observant, as if he’d been reminded there, by its sudden absence, of the world’s surfeit of objects, its gross overabundance of things to look at. Not beautiful things. It wasn’t a case of seeing the world’s wonders anew or anything like that; rather, it was the opposite. Observation didn’t sharpen his faculties, it stupefied them. He was dazed by the quantity and variety, the massive, compacted volume of it all; he noticed everything but had no idea what was worth his notice. People’s faces and brick walls, town gutters and plowed fields, church towers and shop fronts, all claimed his attention equally. He couldn’t discriminate, nor could he locate in himself a particular attitude to any of it ?beyond disorientation, sometimes mild alarm. He surveyed the bur?geoning, seething material of other people’s lives and very little moved him.

After a while, his alarm grew. He began to think there must be some invisible force at work in the world, some unstoppable law of accretion that filled up every surface and corner with streets, office blocks, rivers, factories, houses. Only he seemed to see it, this chaotic, impossible density, all this hoarding and flowing over; was nobody else concerned? If it went on like this, someday the whole planet would clog up and there would not be enough room in the sky for all the crisscrossing exhaust trails of planes, or on the sea for the countless interweaving, frothy wakes of ships. Swirling lines of traffic would spill off the teeming highways. Already there was no such thing as an unfilled space; it was impossible to see nothing. However deserted or arbitrarily spacious, every inch of the world was a place taken up and touched in some way, claimed for one purpose or another, even if it was, as he found in Scotland, to be left bare so that people could see it empty. But there was no true emptiness, no real nothingness, no desert stillness, a phrase that came into his mind and he now wished were more than a phrase. Everywhere—crowded and disorderly, or deliberately pristine—was somewhere, laden with the paraphernalia and expectation of some human design, and in not one of these places was his presence relevant. He tried not to think about it. He tried not to panic, and to concentrate instead on tiny things, one at a time.

He practiced on people. In cafés and checkout queues he would study them, and take in only physical details: the curve of an ear, a ridged fingernail, the asymmetric lift of one eyebrow. Every feature was odd in some way, once he focused on it, not that this disappointed him at all, for he was not looking for perfection or hoping to find a special value in the unique. He simply noticed and remembered. He filed every detail in his mind disjointedly and without cross-reference, each alone for its isolated, particular, frangible self. He welcomed this dullness of perception in himself, for it would have been unbearable to dwell on anything more than how precious and how breakable were these vulnerable, separate, flawed parts of other people’s bodies. Sometimes he knew he was staring at a stranger too hard and should apologize, but he didn’t know what to be sorry for. For not knowing how his own mind worked? For not being sure he bore more than a trivial surface resemblance to other human beings anymore?

He would have liked someone to tell it all to. He called his sister. She told him it would be fine for him to come for a few days if it was up to her, but Derek wasn’t ready to see him.

“Listen, Ron, he accepts it was an accident,” she said. “So do I. But he’s just not ready, you know?”

Ron did know, but he said nothing.

“I mean, Ron, criminal negligence is, well, what it says. You know?”

“I know,” he said.

“And as Derek says, six children died. Plus the pregnant woman. Give us a few months.”

“I’ve been in prison over five years.”

“And then he says, it just makes us look at our two and think, you know? Anyway, the extension’s not finished.”

He left her another couple of messages. Then she sent him a big check with a note saying she trusted the enclosed would help him make a fresh start “somewhere new.” She’d be in touch, she wrote.

He called his former neighbor Jeff and thanked him for the card. It had meant a lot, he said, on his first Christmas in prison.

“That’d be Lynne,” Jeff said. “She sends cards to everybody.”

He left the words even you unspoken, but Ron heard them nonetheless.

“How’s Kathy? Has Lynne seen her?”

Jeff hesitated. “They’re in touch, yeah. Doing better. Knocks you sideways, divorce, never mind everything else she’s had to contend with.”

Ron said it would be good to meet up for a drink. They agreed on a day the following week. The next day Jeff sent a text message to say he couldn’t make it and he’d call soon, but he didn’t.

They’d found him a room for the first month, and a social worker, and he worked the night shift for a while in a bakery, standing on a line wrapping buns and cakes in a warm, yellow-lit factory that smelled of sugar icing and machine oil. His fellow workers were all women who spoke rapidly to one another in their own language and ignored him except to pass on commands about cellophane or cardboard boxes.

To get away from all of that he cashed his sister’s check, bought an old Land Rover, and reverted to his life’s previous pattern, the covering of distances. He knew how to measure a day or night in miles rather than in hours on a factory clock, and he found comfort in the old equation of roads traveled versus time spent equals a portion of his life somehow suspended in transit. As a boy he’d been fascinated by time zones, which he could hardly distinguish from time travel; if you went west crossing zone after zone, going always back in time, one day would you be a man of twenty-one in a high chair with a bib and a spoon? Or going always east and forward, would you find yourself stooped and white-haired and still ten years old? It couldn’t be so, of course, but he had concluded then that the secret was to keep moving. Forget about direction and destination, just keep moving, and surely your life would never be able to catch you up with restrictions and obstacles and all its weighty boredom.

Now, amused by a childish hope that was, if foolish, at least familiar, he took again to the road, sleeping most nights in the Land Rover, parking at the end of the day within reach of a pub and whenever possible near a fast-running stream or a river, whose sound in the night was perhaps a lulling echo of the flow of the daytime traffic. Occasionally he stayed in cheap places when he needed to shave and shower and wash clothes in a hand basin, and sometimes he halted for a week or two here or there and took casual jobs: kitchen portering, laboring, hauling timber, loading and moving, anything physical; it was surprising how often he got a few days’ work just by asking. But mainly he drove. As the first year passed, that was the task that kept him becalmed, though he had to get used to the absence of passengers. There could never be any more passengers.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 11, 2012

    Dark and depressing, but simply not the psychological thriller


    Dark and depressing, but simply not the psychological thriller I was expecting. Each chapter of this book is narrated by one of the three main characters (Ron, Silva and Annabel). Primarily, Ron is told in third person view, Annabel in first person and Silva in second person. Just when I was interested in what was happening with a particular character, the point of view would change with the next chapter. As the chapters tended to be quite short, approximately 2 to 6 pages, I found the narration to get a little frustrating and it was hard to keep my attention.

    The character whose situation I was most drawn to was Annabel, but as the storyline progressed, her situation just became more and more unbelievable. Once Annabel’s rental car was pulled from the wreckage of the bridge, and it was discovered Silva’s husband and daughter were the occupants, I expected the connection between Annabel and Silva’s husband Stefan to be revealed to Silva resulting in some sort of confrontation between the two women. Instead, the author chose to deal more with Silva’s emotional state over her loss and the day-to-day trials of living as a vagrant. Even Annabel’s husband Colin returning in the storyline wasn’t used to its potential. The author does reveal certain truths at the very end of the book, but it just seemed rushed and a waste to have waited that late in the storyline. The ending leaves you hanging.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Quirky and different

    I wanted to update the review I'd already written, but the website is not letting me. I was sort of disappointed that it wasn't more of a mystery or thriller, but I got over that. It starts out with a guy who just got released from prison, which sounded promising. There was also a recently married couple - the woman has just told the man she's pregnant, and since he had told her before marriage that he did not want children, they are in conflict about this. Finally, there's a family of illegal immigrants. This book takes place in Scotland, but believe it or not, other countries besides the U.S. do attract illegal immigrants.

    Like I said, I started out looking forward to some good crime and detection, then was briefly disappointed when there wasn't any - then ended up liking the book as a fiction book. The way the people in the book change as the story progresses is interesting. The man just released from prison finds belonging again; and the couple (each on his and her own) come to feel differently about each other and the marriage and pregnancy. I was rather disappointed with the change that occurred to the immigrant woman's personality. I know that grief and loss can do powerful and strange things to a person - but the change in her personality struck me as something of a deus ex machina, to get the story moving along. Other than that feeling, though, I really enjoyed the book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    So far, so good....

    I just started it, but I like it so far. There's a recently-married couple, and the wife just told the husband that she's pregnant. He had told her early in the relationship that he did not want children, so he is (quite rightfully in my opinion) upset about this. There's also a person recently released from prison. We're off to a promising start.

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  • Posted October 12, 2011

    Among the Mising

    A bridge filled with cars collapses in Scotland. The vehicle license plates are captured on film. Few people escape, some are found dead and the rest presumed dead, but are in reality 'missing.' This unfortunate incident entwines the lives of three very different people.
    One of the missing is Annabel. Newlywed and pregnant, she uses the opportunity to escape from a husband who has no desire to let her keep her baby. Ron, recently out of prison for an 'accident' and has no one to turn to. Silva, an illegal immigrant who is waiting for her husband and daughter to return and fearing it may never happen.
    The three are brought together because of tragedy and focus on Annabel's baby. As the story progresses, each of their true characters show through as well as their deceit. Each has their own hidden secrets and agenda!
    This is an interesting look at human character. This book will stay with you for a long time to come.

    Reviewed by Ashley Wintters for Suspense Magazine
    `

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  • Posted June 3, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    a strong psychological thriller as the terror comes from within

    Near Inverness, Scotland, the bridge collapsed. Cars fell into the icy water leaving many dead. However, not all who died in the tragedy are actually dead.

    Ron went to prison for vehicular manslaughter that left a pregnant teacher and several students dead. He obtains work with the salvage operation. On her honeymoon Annabel left her new husband Colin when he told her he wants no kids after she explained she is carrying his. She sold her rental to Stefan who was on the bridge with his daughter when it collapsed. Feeling survivor guilt Annabelle goes out of her way to meet Stefan's wife Silva who is unaware her husband and child were among the missing and assumed dead. Ron soon befriends the two women.

    Although the survivor connection between the lead players seems doubtful especially the ties of the females, readers will relish this terrific character study. Each anxiously waits judgment day as the months drift by knowing that their secrets will surface. Ergo the anxiety in their stomach begins internally terrorizing them. This is a strong psychological thriller as the terror comes from within.

    Harriet Klausner

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    Posted November 5, 2011

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    Posted July 1, 2011

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