by Elle Cosimano
Review by Gayle Surrette
Kathy Dawson Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780803739260
Date: 25 March 2014 List Price $17.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Nearly "Leigh" Boswell lives on the wrong side of town, in the wrong sort of place. She lives in a trailer park where drug deals go on every evening and young girls sell themselves by what's left of the playground. Her mother strips for a living, but Nearly lives by rules her mother has set for her.
Nearly, known as Leigh by her friends, is a straight "A" student hoping to win a scholarship that will make college possible. She's in competition with one of her two best friends, Anh Bui. The other, Jeremy, has been her friend since … well, forever, but he wants to be more than a friend and Leigh doesn't.
Leigh's father walked out on them years ago and her mother has done her best to keep Leigh from ever having to do what she has done to keep them fed, warm, and with a roof over their heads. There's never much money, but every Friday Leigh buys the paper to study the Missed Connections column hoping to see an ad from her father. When the book opens she's found an intriguing ad that's really a puzzle. When a student is nearly killed, she thinks the advertisement is connected. And when the second weird ad in Missed Connections seems to foreshadow another attack, Leigh begins to feel that it's all related to her somehow.
The tension builds from the time that Leigh spots the first Missed Connections advertisement until the edge of your seat finale. The clues are obscure but solvable, and the crimes begin to point to Leigh as the killer, but we know she isn't. But who could it be? As the tension rises along with the death total, and Leigh is solidly in the sights of the police, it becomes not only a whodunit but a whydunit.
Leigh is a great character, but also a teen. Her choices and decisions may seem foolish to many adults but, in the context of the story and her background they are, maybe not optimal, but certainly not out of the realm of possibility. There's twists and turns aplenty throughout the story, but the author does play fair with the reader.
Nearly Gone is a page turner of a debut with some great characters and an absorbing plot. Highly recommended.