Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Missing Place

The Missing Place

4.0 7
by Sophie Littlefield

See All Formats & Editions

Set against the backdrop of North Dakota’s oil boom, two very different mothers form an uneasy alliance to find their missing sons in this heartrending and suspenseful novel from the Edgar Award–nominated author of Garden of Stones.

The booming North Dakota oil business is spawning “man camps,” shantytowns full of men hired to work


Set against the backdrop of North Dakota’s oil boom, two very different mothers form an uneasy alliance to find their missing sons in this heartrending and suspenseful novel from the Edgar Award–nominated author of Garden of Stones.

The booming North Dakota oil business is spawning “man camps,” shantytowns full of men hired to work on the rigs, in towns without enough housing to accommodate them. In such twilight spaces, it’s easy for a person to vanish. And when two young men in their first year on the job disappear without a trace, only their mothers believe there’s hope of finding them. Despite reassurances that the police are on the case, the two women think the oil company is covering up the disappearances—and maybe something more.

Colleen, used to her decorous life in a wealthy Massachusetts suburb, is determined to find her son. And hard-bitten Shay, from the wrong side of the California tracks, is the only person in town even willing to deal with her—because she’s on the same mission. Overtaxed by worry, exhaustion, and fear, these two unlikely partners question each other’s methods and motivations, but must work together against the town of strangers if they want any chance of finding their lost boys. But what they uncover could destroy them both...

Sure to please fans of Sandra Brown and Gillian Flynn, The Missing Place is a moving chronicle of survival, determination, and powerful bonds forged in the face of adversity.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio
The two mothers are the unlikeliest of buddies, but when they learn how to work together they're positively ferocious—and as brave as any of those macho guys up on the rigs.
Publishers Weekly
Two women from opposite ends of the country, and the socioeconomic spectrum, join forces in a desperate race to discover what happened to their missing oil rig worker sons in this moving mystery from Edgar-finalist Littlefield (House of Glass). Until Colleen Mitchell, the superficial wife of an attorney living in a pricey Boston suburb, and Shay Capparelli, a financially strapped California single mom and spitfire, meet in desolate Lawton, N.Dak., each believes her son to be the only one missing, an error neither stonewalling local police nor the boys’ safety-be-damned employer Hunter-Cole Energy chooses to correct. Combining their complementary skills—Shay’s doggedness, Colleen’s diplomacy—the mothers start to make some headway, but that may not be enough to outmaneuver the forces trying to stymie them (or to overcome their simmering mutual distrust). While some plot twists aren’t so surprising, Littlefield maximizes the emotional impact of her character-driven cautionary tale. Agent: Barbara Poelle, Irene Goodman Literary Agency. (Oct.)
—Christina Baker Kline
“A novel steeped in secrets and unspoken truths.”
bestselling author of THE FEVER and DARE ME - Megan Abbott
"With two strong. complicated women at its center, Sophie Littlefield’s The Missing Place seizes you with its emotional fervor from its first pages and never lets you go. With intelligence and keen sensitivity, Littlefield draws us into a story, and a world—the North Dakota oil fields— that feels both utterly original and yet also so deeply our own. A remarkable novel."
New York Times bestselling author of FAREWELL TO DREAMS - C.J. Lyons
“A powerful portrait of grief, fear, and courage as two mothers fight for truth.”
Jennie Shortridge
“Taut and suspenseful, fierce and compelling—The Missing Place traces two mothers’ descents into the hell of searching for their lost children, and doesn’t let up until the last page is, breathtakingly, turned."
Carla Buckley
"A remarkable story of the unlikely friendship between two women desperately searching for their missing sons, told as only Sophie Littlefield can, with depth, humor, and honesty. Colleen and Shay are women I know; they are whom I see reflected in the mirror. And as they push forward, confronting the demons of their pasts and the horror of their present, I couldn’t help wanting to hold them back just as I urged them onward. THE MISSING PLACE is a compelling and perceptive examination of just how far a mother will go to save her child."
--Christina Baker Kline
“A novel steeped in secrets and unspoken truths.”
Suspense Magazine - Mark P. Sadler
"I read this in one sitting, unable to leave the fray with the boys' lives at stake."
Library Journal
Colleen Mitchell travels to Lawton, ND, in search of her missing son. Paul had been working the oil rigs for Hunter-Cole Energy but suddenly stopped showing up for work. While her husband and Hunter-Cole want to label Paul's disappearance as youthful hijinks, Colleen feels that there is another piece to the story. She becomes even more convinced when she learns that Paul is not the only young employee to go missing. Colleen teams up with Shay, the mother of the other missing young man, to find their children. Because of their difference in wealth and class, Colleen and Shay clash right away. They struggle not only with each other but with the brutal weather and the stonewall they get from the locals and from Hunter-Cole representatives.
Verdict While Littlefield is an Anthony Award—winning crime fiction author (A Bad Day for Sorry), the mystery aspect is the novel's weakest part. Red herrings abound, and the eventual resolution is disappointing, given the strong buildup. This story succeeds when it focuses on the character of Shay; readers will wish to have more of her perspective. Those looking for a family drama with an unusual setting would enjoy this book. [See Prepub Alert, 4/6/14.]—Lynnanne Pearson, Skokie P.L., IL

(c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
A dark tale of two mothers seeking their sons, dead or alive. Lawton, North Dakota, may be remote but it's bursting at the seams with young men eager to cash in on the latest oil strike. Consultants and the occasional visitor compete for rooms at the packed hotels, while rig workers grasp a few hours of sleep in impersonal barracks constructed by the oil companies. Of course, most of the men leave within weeks, either worn down by the grueling pace or frustrated by the dearth of women. A few flee the danger of limbs mangled in the machinery—or worse. But two have simply disappeared. The police have little interest in, or manpower available for, tracking down Paul Mitchell or Taylor Capparelli, young men who probably just took off for a warmer climate or easier work. So their mothers take the investigation into their own hands. They are certainly a mismatched pair: Shay Capparelli has survived raising two kids on her own, with little help from their dads or from her bosses, which has left her tough yet brittle. Colleen Mitchell, accustomed to East Coast affluence, trusts blithely in her own financial power to bend everyone and everything to her will. Forced to share quarters in an icy mobile home, the women must quickly set aside their mistrust of each other to focus on finding their sons. But the police warn them to stay away from the case, the oil company stonewalls them, and their own pasts toss up personal obstacles. As twist leads to turn, they discover how poverty, greed and jealousy can add up to tragedy. Edgar Award nominee Littlefield (House of Glass, 2014, etc.) deftly contrasts Shay's and Colleen's experiences and prejudices. Although Colleen's rather peevish perspective is wearying, her conflicts with Shay neatly calibrate her troubles with Paul. It's a good yarn, weaving together corporate and personal malfeasance. A satisfying, icy thriller.

Product Details

Gallery Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.20(w) x 5.30(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Missing Place

  • COLLEEN MITCHELL’S WORLD had been reduced to the two folded sheets of paper she clutched tightly in her left hand. She’d been holding them since leaving Sudbury at four thirty that morning, even when she went through security at Logan, even during the layover in Minneapolis, where she paced numbly up and down the terminal. The paper was slightly damp now and softened from too much handling.

    Nobody wrote real letters anymore. Especially not kids. All through middle school, Colleen had forced Paul to write thank-you notes by hand every birthday and Christmas; the monogrammed stationery was still around somewhere, up in the dusty shelves of his closet. Once high school started, they had bigger battles to fight, and she gave up on the notes.

    When was the last time she’d even seen her son’s blocky, leaning handwriting? There must be papers—class notes, tests—in the boxes he’d brought back from Syracuse, but Colleen hadn’t had the heart to open any of them, and they too were stacked in the closet. Nowadays Paul texted, that was all, and in Colleen’s hand was a printout of all the texts from him. God bless Vicki—she’d figured out how to print them in neat columns so they fit on two double-sided pages and had emailed Colleen the file too, “just in case.”

    Colleen had read them a hundred times. They went back four months, to last September. All the communications from her son since he left—and they fit on two pages. One more indictment of her parenting, of what she’d done wrong or too much or not enough.

    SEPTEMBER 27, 2010, 2:05 PM

    Got it thx

    That was the oldest one. Colleen couldn’t remember what Paul had been thanking her for. Probably one of her care packages—she sent them all throughout last autumn, boxes packed with homemade brownies and Sky Bars and paperback books she knew he’d never read. But when Paul came home for Thanksgiving (well, the week after Thanksgiving, but she and Andy and Andy’s brother Rob and Rob’s girlfriend had delayed the whole turkey-and-pie production until Paul could be there; Andy had even taped the games and waited to watch them with him), he made it clear that the packages embarrassed him.

    Next was a series of texts from her:

    OCTOBER 28, 2010, 9:16 AM

    Hi sweetie dad has enough frequent flyer miles for u to come home when you’re off

    OCTOBER 29, 2010, 7:44 AM

    When are you off again?

    OCTOBER 30, 2010, 11:50 PM

    Wish u were here for hween the flannigans have the pumpkin lights in the trees

    Like he was eleven, for God’s sake, and off at sleepaway camp, instead of twenty, a man.

    A small sob escaped Colleen’s throat, an expulsion of the panic that she’d mostly got under control. She covered the sound with a cough. In her carry-on was half a bottle of Paxil, which Dr. Garrity had given her over a year ago before they settled on a regimen of red clover extract and the occasional Ambien to treat what was, he assured her, a perfectly normal transition into menopause. She hadn’t liked the Paxil; it made her feel dizzy and sometimes sweaty, but she’d packed the bottle yesterday along with her own sleeping pills and Andy’s too. She hadn’t told him, and she felt a little guilty about that, but he’d be able to get a refill tomorrow. She’d leave a message with the doctor’s answering service when they landed, and then all he’d have to do was pick it up.

    Colleen refolded the papers and rested her forehead against the airplane window, looking out into the night. The plane had begun its descent. The flight attendant had made her announcement—they’d be on the ground a few minutes before ten, the temperature was one degree, winds at something. One degree was cold. But Boston got cold too, and it didn’t bother Colleen the way it did some people.

    Far below, rural North Dakota was lit up by the moon, a vast rolling plain of silvery snow interrupted here and there by rocky swaths where the land rose up in ridges. Colleen tried to remember if she’d ever been to either Dakota. She couldn’t even remember the names of the capitals—Pierre? Was that one of them?

    A flare of orange caught her eye, a rippling brightness surrounded by a yawning black hole in the snow. And there. And there! Half a dozen of them dotting the bleak landscape, blazes so bright they looked unnatural, the Day-Glo of a traffic cone. Colleen’s first thought was forest fire, but there were no trees, and then she thought of the burning piles of trash she saw sometimes in Mattapan or Dorchester. But people didn’t burn trash at night, and besides, there were no houses, no town, just—

    And then she saw it, the tall burred spire like an old-time radio tower, and she knew, even as they flew past, that she had seen her first rig. The plane was still too far up for her to make out any details except that it looked so small, so flimsy, almost like a child’s toy—a Playmobil oil rig play set with little plastic roughnecks.

    The plane tipped down, the engine shifted, and so did the men, the tired-looking, ill-shaven lot of them who’d boarded with her in Minneapolis. They turned off their iPads and crumpled their paper coffee cups and cleared the sleep from their throats.

    Colleen closed her eyes, the image of the rig imprinted in her mind, and as they approached Lawton, she thought, Give him back, you have to give him back to me.

  • Meet the Author

    Sophie Littlefield grew up in rural Missouri, the middle child of a professor and an artist. She has been writing stories since childhood. After taking a hiatus to raise her children, she sold her first book in 2008, and has since authored over a dozen novels in several genres. Sophie’s novels have won Anthony and RT Book Awards and been shortlisted for Edgar, Barry, Crimespree, Macavity, and Goodreads Choice Awards. In addition to women’s fiction, she writes the post-apocalyptic Aftertime series, the Stella Hardesty and Joe Bashir crime series, and thrillers for young adults. She is a past president of the San Francisco Romance Writers of America chapter. Sophie makes her home in northern California.

    Customer Reviews

    Average Review:

    Post to your social network


    Most Helpful Customer Reviews

    See all customer reviews

    The Missing Place 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
    UndercoverBookReviews More than 1 year ago
    ~Received For An Honest Review~ Fast paced. Interesting enough to keep you reading. The heartbreak that these two mothers face. But what it is it that they find out that could be more harmful then good? Grab your copy and see all for yourself!
    quaintinns More than 1 year ago
    A special thank you to Gallery Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield, an intense, page-turner mystery of two strong and opposite female protagonists; willing to risk it all, in order to save their sons from the cold dark town and oil fields in North Dakota. If you are seeking a weekend book to curl up with, for a guaranteed intriguing, satisfying and engaging ride, this is it! Two boys (Taylor and Paul) go missing the same day in Lawton, North Dakota where they are working on an oil rig and staying at the Black Creek Lodge. All the hotels are full due to the workers, and the size of the small town. When two mothers cannot get any answers from the local authorities or the energy company, they both set out a dangerous quest to attain answers about their sons. (stuck in a small trailer) Two mothers (have never met one another): Shay, (mother of Taylor), is an in your face, brash, passionate, single mom; street smart, low on cash, from the wrong side of the tracks in California. She has an honest and open relationship with her son and they are very close. She will do anything to find him (and boy, is she creative and resourceful). Colleen, (mother of ADHD dyslexic son, Paul), wealthy housewife from Boston, with her classic pearls and cashmere sweaters, and perfect hair-married to Andy, a successful attorney, has connections and money and level headed. She can open doors Shay cannot. Each have their own strengths. She and her son have a “not so close” and strained relationship. She is overprotective and controlling, due to Paul’s past behavior issues. First, let me say, I loved the front cover, and the summary, as I knew this would be a book, I had to read and have been saving it. It exceeded my expectations and more. A definite 5 Star +. This was my first book by Littlefield and cannot wait to read more, as love her style! Told from three POV (Shay, Colleen, and T.L), which I enjoyed as you learn the intimate thoughts, actions, reactions, and raw feelings from different viewpoints. There is sooooo much to this story, as a former whistleblower, I love uncovering misdeeds of large corporations as root for the underdog and those threatened. However, this was not just a story about the mishaps, cover-ups, and corruption of Hunter-Cole Energy. There is the Indian Reservation and land leases, and how these people have been taken advantage of. An innocent boy, with sins of the father and a past history of characters from the sheriff’s office to the Indian Reservation, which have been passed down to the next generation. Most importantly is the human interest side of the novel, written with great depth and vivid settings and descriptions, pulling the reader into this unsure world, not knowing who they can trust. This is no ordinary crime mystery. It is thought-provoking in so many ways and much left to the reader to draw conclusions. Littlefield skillfully crafts a riveting suspense which keeps you glued to the page with her well-developed characters. (A read in one setting kind of book). Block out the time, it is worth it! The dynamics between these two women (Shay and Colleen)—Award-winning!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Good read.
    TheBibliophilicBookBlog More than 1 year ago
    Many young men are being drawn to North Dakota with the promise of money and becoming a man by working on Oasis Energy rigs. Two of the young men have disappeared and their mothers, Shay and Colleen, have come to Weir, North Dakota to find out the truth. They’re stonewalled by Oasis Energy who may have too much to hide, the police department, the townspeople, and they start to question each other. THE MISSING PLACE starts out very well and the reader is drawn into the anguish of both mothers. As they are blocked at every turn, their pain increases a hundred-fold. The writing is taut and gripping, but the suspense ends for the reader once the truth is revealed. The last part of the book, once everyone is back home, is a bit anticlimactic. I find it amazing how the behaviors and attitudes which have cost the characters so much persist once the drama unfolded. I did greatly appreciate the way the author approached the subject of learning disabilities and their effect on those afflicted and their loved ones. THE MISSING PLACE is, overall, engaging and dramatic with an important message about what the love of a mother truly means.
    FeatheredQuillBookReviews More than 1 year ago
    Sophie Littlefield delivers an intriguing story of deception and suspense in her latest novel, The Missing Place. Colleen is far from her privileged and wealthy Sudbury, Massachusetts home. She would have never imagined herself in the throes and nothingness of Lawton, North Dakota. A mild panic grips Colleen as her plane touches down and she arrives in the virtually dark terminal and realizes the rental car counter is closed. She tentatively approaches the man kneeling down by the exit in hopes of getting some answers. When she learns there are no cabs available and no rooms open at the (maybe) one or two hotels in town, Colleen pleads for a ride—a ride that would take her to (hopefully) civilization. Her husband Andy had warned her about going off half-cocked on this wild goose chase. However, nothing would stop her given the fact her son Paul has gone missing. Through a series of coincidences and perhaps divine guidance, Colleen is deposited on the broken-down doorstep of the RV where hard-worn Californian Shay has taken up residency. It would seem Shay’s son, Taylor, is also among the missing from Hunter-Cole Energy’s Black Creek camp. Both young men had a few things in common: they were definitely “newbie’s” as was their mutual indoctrination into the roughshod life of an oil rigger. It was a given they would find friendship in each other. What Colleen and Shay couldn’t know is the series of road blocks and multitude of dead ends that lay ahead of them in their mission they vowed never to give up on: to find their sons. Sophie Littlefield has written a compelling novel that truly captured the heart strings of this reader. Littlefield zeroed in on the premise of the horror and fear this mother never would want to experience: my child has gone missing. Ms. Littlefield develops her two main characters, Colleen and Shay—both mothers of missing sons, with a presence of absolute opposites; yet there is a sublime nuance they were destined to come together and they mesh in an awkward way because of the common bond of their missing sons. The pace of this story moves along nicely and Ms. Littleton has a stylistic balance of developing both dialogue and prose. She chooses her words wisely and focuses on everyday language that, in my opinion, makes for a fast and familiar read. Ms. Littleton demonstrates a natural ability of strategically sowing the seeds of her story as she gradually builds the plot from one chapter to the next. There is an abundance of emotion and reality to these women that is anchored in what it must be like to wonder what happened to her missing child. As Littlefield guides the reader throughout this story, I applaud her in tying up loose ends as the story winds down. The surprise ending will leave the reader with a satisfying sense of closure. I look forward to her next novel. Quill says: The Missing Place is a story devoted to a mother’s worst nightmare and the importance of never giving up hope.
    booknerdDS More than 1 year ago
    I really enjoyed "The Missing Place" by Sophie Littlefield.  There were so many elements to the story that I found to be unexpected and really enjoyable.  I usually stay away with books that are a little to suspenseful because I don't like reading about children getting hurt.  But I do think that the author balanced the tension in the book.  Shay and Colleen were very different but they were both on the same mission-find their missing sons.  This was my first time reading this author and I really enjoyed her storytelling and writing.