Although horror has always been my favourite genre of books, thanks to the likes of Stephen King, Joe Hill and Clive Barker, I’ve also got a really soft spot for thrillers, which I gravitate towards quite often. In all honesty, I find it difficult to say no to thrillers because curiosity gets me. They often have such interesting premises, but you never truly know until you start reading them (or sometimes complete them) whether or not they’ll be any good. I guess that’s like most books, but it feels particularly apt for this genre.
When I first saw that a book called Have You Seen Her by Catherine McKenzie was coming out, my interest became piqued and I quickly requested it, hoping that the publisher would have a review copy for me. Spoiler alert: They did, and sent it early; thus allowing me to publish this review in good time. The finished version doesn’t come out until the end of June, so what I read was an Advanced Reading Copy that cannot be quoted from because small edits may still be made.
Have You Seen Her (with no question mark, which bugs me) centres upon a thirty-something woman who attempts to shed her former life by traveling out of state and dropping her phone in a public garbage can. Her name is Cassie Peters, or Cassie Adams, or Cassie something else, and she’s running away from her abusive and controlling husband in search of a past version of herself. One which enjoyed hiking and climbing in Yosemite National Park, while also helping the public by working as a search-and-rescue officer therein.
A decade ago, a younger and less weathered version of Cassie left her home in nearby Mammoth and became a SAR officer in Yosemite, where she made good friends and received good references. It seemed like the perfect job, but it didn’t last because of the disappearance of a childhood friend who was later found dead. Finding her friend haunts Cassie to this day, and it’s something she’s trying not to think about while doing her second tour of duty in the park. That’s easier said than done, especially after another young couple goes missing on a lengthy hiking trail.
Have You Seen Her is part character study, part abused woman hiding from her husband — who threatens to find her — and part mystery. Thus, it could easily be categorized as a thriller/mystery and not just a standard thriller. Fans of both genres should enjoy it as a result.
I particularly liked the character of Cassie Adams, and cared about her. At the same time, I found interest in the overarching storyline, including her running from her husband and searching for the two lost hikers. The other characters who were woven in weren’t as interesting, but were better than a lot of side characters I’ve read over the years. A few even play prominent roles, including another young woman named Petal, who lives in a nearby trailer park with her much older partner. Petal’s story has something to do with everything mentioned above, and some chapters end with her journal entries. Others end with Instagram posts from Jada, the missing young woman.
Now that I’ve said all that, I should mention the other aspect of Have You Seen Her. You see, this story isn’t told chronologically. Although the majority of it is as described, the narrative starts ahead of those events, and details Cassie being evacuated from a remote clearing. Not just her, but a body as well. From time to time the story jumps forward and continues this timeline, as she’s interviewed about what happened out there. Then, as expected, things all tie together.
This was an easy and interesting read, and one that I find easy to recommend. It’s well written, easily above average and keeps you thinking. While it’s maybe not as twisty as some of the best genre efforts, it makes up for it by being a good story with a good and relatively deep main character. Thus, if you’re looking for a quality thriller to read this summer you don’t need to look any further.
That said, I do wish its title had a question mark. It feels wrong without one.
This review is based on a physical Advanced Reader Copy, which we were provided with by Atria Books & Simon and Schuster Canada.