Local Gone Missing
June 14th, 2022
Local Gone Missing by Fiona Barton is a tale of secrets and surprises with some humor. The plot explores the tension and conflicts between locals and weekenders in the small seaside town of Ebbing Sussex.
“It is a story of how people reinvent themselves. I went to the countryside, and someone was talking about people I knew. I got to thinking what if someone said things that were fake, and you meet someone who knows that. I do not write genres, but this is really about the characters in my story. This is something different from my other series that featured the journalist, Kate Waters. With the Kate series, the location was not a character. But this felt different with the outsiders versus the insiders. Ebbing Sussex is a small town. My detective is an outsider who sees things from a different perspective than the locals. I did draw a map of this fictitious town.”
Detective Elise King has moved here after taking medical leave, recovering from breast cancer. She now spends most days watching the growing tensions in her small seaside town of Ebbing. The weekenders are renovating old bungalows into luxury homes, and the locals are resentful of the changes.
Elise’s house cleaner, Dee Eastwood, is an invisible presence in many of the houses in town, but she sees and hears everything. The cleaner was a fly on the wall. “It is a lovely idea. I am fascinated by the invincible people, in the shadows and on the periphery. I always wondered what they knew and what should they know. Dee, my character who cleans houses has people talk in front of her. She knows so many of their secrets.”
The conflicts boil over when a newcomer wants to put the town on the map with a weekend music festival, and two teenagers’ overdose on drugs. This resort town has locals versus weekenders, the outsiders. “Weekenders are resented to some degree. Everything is switched around. They are only there maybe thirteen weeks of the year with empty houses the rest of the time. It influences the community of the town. Those who lived there are resentful of those coming in, buying the houses, leaving the people who grew up there feeling hopeless since they cannot buy a house.”
Then a man disappears the first night of the festival. Elise is spurred to dig for answers by her neighbor Ronnie. She teams with Elise to find out answers to the missing person. Ronnie the amateur sleuth versus Elise the professional detective. “Elise thought she knew where her life was going. Having breast cancer made her very aware of her mortality. Elise is very reluctant to get involved. Ronnie is the nosiest woman in the world who wants to get involved in the disappearance case. I love Ronnie. She drags Elise into the case. Ronnie knows all these people and pushed Elise who then got hooked, which made for a great dynamic.”
This story is part cozy mystery and part police procedural. With the next book Elise returns to work full-time to solve another case.