The best missing person books

13 authors have picked their favorite books about missing persons and why they recommend each book.

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Bellamy and the Brute

By Alicia Michaels,

Book cover of Bellamy and the Brute

Can you tell Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairytales to read in all its retellings? This one is set in our modern world. It takes a look at the ugly side of bullying in high school, a murder mystery, ghosts, money extortion, lots of people keeping secrets, and through all of this, two people have to learn to see into each other’s hearts.


Who am I?

I’ve always loved fairytales. What little girl with a growing romantic heart doesn’t? By the time I was eight, I told people I was Cinderella because of all the work I did at home. An exaggeration, even for the oldest child, but still. My first prom dress, during a year I won’t mention, was reminiscent of Cinderella’s blue ballgown. As I became a writer myself, I noticed my stories held themes I learned from fairytales. Love, loyalty, courage, and a dose of magic. I simply add space or aliens to the mix.


I wrote...

Fade Into Me

By Charity Bradford,

Book cover of Fade Into Me

What is my book about?

A modern-day fairytale with a science fiction twist. Aliens live among us. Their purpose: to protect and nurture their greatest mistake—mankind.


Abhithian. Caedan doesn’t believe humans will evolve to see the magic, much less control it. Even so, he has two months to marry one or face the wrath of the High Council. Bitter about a responsibility he thinks prevents him from marrying for love, he figures any human girl will do. Then his soul mate stumbles into—and right out of—his arms.

Human. Ryanne might be Caedan’s one shot at happiness while still fulfilling his duty. Unfortunately, she’s determined to push Caedan away to protect him from her past and a dark secret.

The Good Neighbors

By Holly Black, Ted Naifeh (illustrator),

Book cover of The Good Neighbors

Holly Black co-wrote the Spiderwick Chronicles and knows her stuff. I found this series of graphic novels extremely entertaining, and chillingly true to the old legends. Black takes old legends from several Eurocentric cultures and has them coexisting in one single city, as just people, trying to make it. Poor Rue, the main character, is only half-human. When she finds out her mother is one of "the good neighbors"-- a fairy princess, she has to venture to her grandfather's realm to find her, meanwhile, a swan maiden is murdered up the street, and nixies steal her boyfriend. The drama of the series was riveting, as were the legends she called upon.


Who am I?

I remember being gifted a copy of a fairy tale book for children by someone my dad worked with as a kid. "Wow, these are really close to the originals," Mom murmured under her breath.
"Wait, there are originals?" That set off a chain reaction of a lifelong love of fairy tales, myths, legends, and folk stories. Writing The Tooth Fairy forced me to double-check my lifetime of accumulated knowledge. Plus, being trapped indoors with audiobooks during a global pandemic left me a lot more time to learn! In short: I simply love the old legends.


I wrote...

The Tooth Fairy

By Helen M. Pugsley,

Book cover of The Tooth Fairy

What is my book about?

When Covid-19 hits, 26-year-old dentist Marlene has to move back from Yuma, Arizona, to her parent's ranch in Olsen County, Wyoming. There she finds out she is a changeling -- A fairy switched with a human child. She learns there is a human girl in Fairyland wearing her face.
The two women become fast friends!

Until something much darker happens, Marlene must save her newfound sister, Krysathia, from the fae. While also trying to save herself from both the pandemic and poverty.

The Last Thing He Told Me

By Laura Dave,

Book cover of The Last Thing He Told Me

The night Hannah’s husband vanishes, a young girl hands Hannah a note that reads “protect her.” The “her” in question is Hannah’s teenage stepdaughter Bailey. But from whom or what she needs protection is a mystery. So Hannah and Bailey set off to solve that mystery and, they hope, reunite their family. The mystery proceeds at a cracking pace, and the amateur sleuths make rookie mistakes that any crime fiction could have told them were bad ideas. But along the way, Hannah and Bailey’s rocky, arm’s-length relationship deepens into something real. I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, so I’ll just say that Hannah’s personal code and her strength of character lingered with me long after I finished this book.


Who am I?

I’m a mystery, thriller, and suspense author who’s written dozens of books across five series. In addition to writing crime fiction, I’ve always loved reading in the genre. I’ll take a fast-paced thriller any day. I’ve noticed, over time, that my reading tastes have changed. I gravitate toward crime fiction that features flawed but ethical protagonists who believe, as I do, that light drives out darkness, love is a demonstration of courage, and kindness is a weapon. These five books share this theme in common—all against the backdrop of gripping, high-stakes plots with twists and turns aplenty. These are books that will get your heart racing and give you hope for humanity.


I wrote...

Chosen Path

By Melissa F. Miller,

Book cover of Chosen Path

What is my book about?

Forensic pathologist Bodhi King has an international reputation as the expert to consult when there’s an unexplained death cluster. So he’s not surprised when the call comes in about a troubling spate of deaths in a remote town on the U.S.—Canadian border.

He is surprised when he arrives in the tiny community tucked away in the mountains and every door slams shut in his face. The people there don’t want his help, even as the body count rises. It would be the easiest thing in the world to walk away, but that’s not the path Bodhi’s chosen to walk. So he digs into the town’s dark crevices in search of the truth. But what he finds will force him to confront his own beliefs about courage, compassion, and the sanctity of life and of death.

Maya and the Rising Dark

By Rena Barron,

Book cover of Maya and the Rising Dark

I read books for all ages, because good stories transcend age, gender, race, etc. I love books that teach me something new, especially those with smart, sassy, and determined female protagonists. Maya and the Rising Dark is a delightful middle-grade read, with an empowered 12-year-old girl leading the way. Rich with diversity, I loved journeying into the mythology of the Orisha gods with Maya and her friends


Who am I?

I love any book that carries me away into a different world, allows me to feel new possibilities, and makes me think. That is what I call magic. This creative magic has filled all aspects of my life. In addition to writing, I am a theatre artist, a mentor, an advocate for women and girls, and a creativity facilitator. In other words, I believe in the creative powers of people to make a more just and enriched world. My goal is always to inspire others to find their own voice, and to use it to make a difference. That’s what guides my reading, and my book recommendations. Enjoy!


I wrote...

P.O.W.ER

By Lisa A. Kramer,

Book cover of P.O.W.ER

What is my book about?

In a time when access to the written word is reserved for men, Andra Betscrivener’s ability to read and write must remain a secret, or she could lose her hands, her eyes, or her life. At 17, Andra discovers that her abilities extend beyond reading: she can write events to life. Desperate to keep her powers hidden from both the government and a rebel group, she learns her words have the power to kill, threatening her father’s life and her own freedom. Andra’s fight empowers others to stop governmental oppression, but in a society ruled by lies, cruelty, and inequality, her journey will not be easy or safe.

P.O.W.ER was named to the 2014-15 Sarton Literary Award shortlist for contemporary fiction!

Ladder of Years

By Anne Tyler,

Book cover of Ladder of Years

Anne Tyler is one of my favorite authors. I am always drawn to her portraits of family dynamics through the lens of her quirky characters. She presents them in a way that moves beyond their quirks and negative qualities; we see them with their contradictions and failings amid the texture of their daily lives. We follow her characters through their difficulties and hard-won unexpected discoveries about themselves.

In this novel, a woman simply walks away from her family, leaving them on a beach in Delaware. We follow her life as she chooses a new identity and an independent life — a fantasy for many women, including myself. Like Delia, I have often felt like getting up and walking away. I call it my Ladder of Years Day.


Who am I?

I have always wanted to be a writer. I love reading and am inspired by authors of character-driven novels—Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Berg, Colm Toibin, Anna Quindlen, and others—who take time to explore the inner thoughts and motivations of their protagonists. The novels I picked take the reader deep into the interior thoughts of their protagonists. As they explore the complexities of relationships amid the texture of ordinary life, they reveal the fragility and strength of the characters as we discover what simmers beneath the surface of their relationships. Long after reading them, I remember the characters and the time I spent with them.


I wrote...

Becoming Nora

By Margaret Farrell Kirby,

Book cover of Becoming Nora

What is my book about?

Becoming Nora explores how unexamined pasts and repressed emotions can simmer beneath a seemingly ordinary and happy marriage. Until the day her husband shattered her world with the news that he was unhappy and wanted a separation, Nora Stanton had been sure her life was settled, perfect in fact. At age forty, they had everything: good careers, a nice house, and two children-just as planned.

Nora is forced to face her misconceptions and uncover parts of herself that had gotten buried in the day-to-day containment of her marriage. As she learns to free herself, she finds herself making choices the old Nora could not have imagined.

Build Your House Around My Body

By Violet Kupersmith,

Book cover of Build Your House Around My Body

Not many books are both frightening and funny, but Kupersmith’s debut novel certainly checks those boxes for me. Like Winnie, a young American in Vietnam, I taught English abroad for a couple of years in my early twenties, and I laughed in recognition of her experiences and outlook early in the novel. But as I turned the pages, I found myself more and more spooked by the hauntings and possessions (not to mention the snakes), and ultimately very moved by the characters and plot. Kupersmith lays out several narratives and then plaits them together, but it’s so gradual that you don’t see how enmeshed all the characters are until you’re neck-deep in the book. It’s horror and humor and history, all rolled into one.


Who am I?

I’ve always loved “big books,” novels that are described as sagas and chronicles yet whose primary focus is on singular, nuanced characters. I like seeing the ways that lives intersect and reflect each other across decades, and I enjoy being immersed in one world and then dropped, with the turn of a page, into another equally engrossing one. I am the author of the novel Rebellion as well as numerous short stories and essays. Raised in St. Louis, Missouri, I spent several years living in China and a year as the Writer-in-Residence at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C. I now live in Wisconsin, where I write and teach creative writing.

I wrote...

Rebellion

By Molly Patterson,

Book cover of Rebellion

What is my book about?

Two sisters at the end of the nineteenth century embark on very different journeys, one to China as a missionary, the other to the flat landscape of Illinois as a farmer’s wife. Six decades later, a daughter fights to maintain control of the farm in the aftermath of her husband’s untimely death. As the twentieth century turns to the twenty-first, a young woman finds her Chinese town rapidly changing, even as she feels frozen in place. Each woman, constricted by the expectations of family and society, faces a choice whose consequences reverberate through the years. A vibrant story set against a century of complicated relations between China and America, Rebellion portrays with compassion and complexity those who pursue their own thrilling fate.

Ghost Girl

By Ally Malinenko,

Book cover of Ghost Girl

Ghost Girl is wonderfully spooky with true, relatable characters that I instantly cared about and rooted for. This novel has so much heart and touched me on so many levels. The scary, tense action kept me on the edge of my seat, and when characters were forced to confront their fear, loss, and pain, I found myself thinking about times in my life when I faced challenging situations. The friendships, the growth, and empowerment of the characters, and the belief we can overcome anything were what touched me the most. 


Who am I?

When I was younger, I never quite felt like I fit in, and I was never good at expressing my feelings or verbally communicating when I was going through difficult moments. Writing was my outlet when I was struggling with painful situations or overwhelming emotions—grief, loss, insecurity, fear. I know how important it is to have strong friendships and safe spaces where you can be your authentic and sometimes messy self. It’s okay to not be okay. In my writing, I hope to express to readers that they are not alone, and can overcome challenging situations.  


I wrote...

Hide and Seeker

By Daka Hermon,

Book cover of Hide and Seeker

What is my book about?

Twelve-year-old Zee is back now. He disappeared for a year and nobody knows where he went or what happened to him. Not even his best friends Justin, Nia, and Lyric. But ever since Zee has been back, he's been... different. After Zee freaks out at his friends playing hide and seek at an odd party in his backyard-the first time his group of friends is back together since his reappearance-strange things begin to occur. Everyone who played in the game has a mark on their wrist. And then they disappear.

The kids are pulled into a shadow world-the Nowhere-ruled by the monstrous, shape-shifting Seeker. Justin and his friends will have to band together and face their worst nightmares to defeat the Seeker or lose themselves to the Nowhere forever.

Then She Was Gone

By Lisa Jewell,

Book cover of Then She Was Gone

I picked up Then She Was Gone at a thrift store, thinking it would be a quick, fun read while I was at the beach. Quick read, yes. Fun…? Not so much. Then She Was Gone had me flipping the pages faster than a snake can hiss. As the story unraveled, I found myself muttering “oh no, no…no way” more than once. The story was both heart-wrenching and disturbing, and it lingered with me long after I’d closed the book. It touches on love, marriage, motherhood, loss, grief, and shattered hopes. It’s not a feel-good book, but it’s a really good read. I love stories that drag me over the rough road but also hit me in the heart, and Then She Was Gone delivers.


Who am I?

I’ve always loved books about the bad choices good people make, or the good choices bad people make. I like twists and turns and ugly crying and serious “wtf” moments. Books that are like punches to the gut make me swoon. Dig up the dirt. Find the worms. Gnash your teeth, rend your garments, regret your choices and find new ways to love. Those are my favorite stories to read, but also to write. I write romance (Megan Hart), thrillers (Mina Hardy), and horror (Megan E. Hart), but to me, those different genres are all similar. Lots of screaming!


I wrote...

After All I've Done

By Mina Hardy,

Book cover of After All I've Done

What is my book about?

She's lost her best friend, her husband--and possibly, her mind. An accident left Diana Sparrow badly injured and missing a few months of her memory. She's started having recurring nightmares about the night of the accident. Maybe she hit something. Or someone.

Her former best friend Val has been sleeping with Diana's husband, but she might find some comfort in Cole Pelham. The closer they become, the more Diana begins to wonder what really happened that night – and how Cole might be connected. Worse, it seems everyone else could be involved, too. As her life unravels thread by thread and the dreams become too real to ignore, Diana will have to face the unthinkable – and do the unforgivable.

Country of Origin

By Don Lee,

Book cover of Country of Origin

There are some writers I read purely for the pleasure of a well-written sentence. Don is one of those, because he is a Literary Writer™ – he edited one of the premier literary journals for many years. But here’s the thing – he is also one hell of a plotter. This first novel of his caught the letters community by surprise, but not me; the intricate construction of his short stories could only lead to a tale as labyrinthine as this one. Featuring classic mystery tropes, Country of Origin is a missing person case that leads our hero, an American Embassy officer in Tokyo, to seedy strip clubs, dangerous love affairs, and the CIA, all delivered with surgical prose that would make Raymond Chandler blush.


Who am I?

Ever since my high school days, when I encountered the mystery novels of Dick Francis and Robert B. Parker for the first time, I’ve been hooked on this genre. And yet it took me more than twenty years to finally write my first bona fide work of detective fiction. Why? Because I was chicken. Didn’t think I could cut it. After publishing two works of literary fiction, I figured I had enough practice to make an attempt.  Nope. Still wasn’t ready, writing myself into ugly, impossible corners. So I read Sue Grafton, John D. MacDonald, Dennis Lehane, and I kept failing better – until I failed best.


I wrote...

Skin Deep

By Sung J. Woo,

Book cover of Skin Deep

What is my book about?

Korean-American adoptee Siobhan O'Brien has spent much of her life explaining her name and her family to strangers, but a more pressing problem is whether to carry on the PI agency that her dead boss unexpectedly left to her. Easing into middle age, Siobhan would generally rather have a glazed donut than a romance, but when an old friend asks Siobhan to find her daughter who has disappeared from her dorm. As Siobhan delves deeper into her missing person search, she encounters politely dangerous men in white turtlenecks, vegan cooking that might kill her, and possibly deadly yoga poses.

The first book in a new series, fans of Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone will find another classic female detective in Skin Deep’s Siobhan O’Brien.

Leaving Time

By Jodi Picoult,

Book cover of Leaving Time

The love of a mother and child is one that is dear to my heart, and so I was absolutely captivated by this book. A little girl’s desperate longing for the mother who mysteriously disappeared a decade earlier takes readers on a journey that is both strange and wondrous at the same time. I love a book that teaches me something, and Jodi Picoult elegantly weaves together the nature of motherhood in both humans and elephants in a way that adds depth and beauty to the story. Add to this a psychic medium who the main character, Jenna, employs to help her along the way, and I’m hooked. This story crosses time, space, life, and death all the way through to its shocking ending – which I never saw coming.


Who am I?

When I was growing up, I used to write letters to and from myself in my journals, certain these messages were crossing time. I’ve always had a fascination with what lies beyond the horizons of our natural world and felt like somehow the laws of physics–the traditional rules of space and time–may not always apply in quite the way we think they do. And that maybe, hidden in the day-to-day life of mothers and fathers, of families and lovers, are little hints that the impossible might just be possible. So naturally, these are the stories I most love to read (and write).


I wrote...

A Day Like This

By Kelley McNeil,

Book cover of A Day Like This

What is my book about?

Annie Beyers has everything a beautiful house, a loving husband, and an adorable daughter, Hannah until she wakes from a car accident and she’s told that her daughter never existed. In fact, nothing after waking from the crash is the same as Annie remembers. Five happy years of her life apparently never happened. With each passing day, Annie’s remembered past and unfamiliar present begin to blur. Haunted by visions of Hannah, and with knowledge of things she can’t explain, Annie wonders…is everyone lying to her? The search for answers leads Annie down an illuminating path far from home, to reconcile the memories with reality and to discover the truth about the life she’s living.

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