River song

By CLEA SIMON  |  May 13, 2009

As befits this lyrical language, Gautreaux presents Simoneaux's journey in near-Biblical terms. He's a seeker, searching for the permanence of family in an increasingly precarious world. At times, Gautreaux makes him a bit too much of a Job, piling on the punishments. It is not enough that his own child die — he must wound someone else's. It is not enough that a little girl be stolen on his watch and that he lose his job — when, against huge odds, he recovers the girl, her mother must blame him for the changes in the child — he must, in fact, be cursed by her dying breath: "Suddenly, she arched her back and cried out, as from a dream, 'It's all your fault.' "

Still, the beauty of the writing and a plot loaded with intricate switchbacks keep the book going. And if occasionally The Missing shudders like an old riverboat, it remains a journey worth taking, the craft sufficient for the load.

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