Missing Melissa - Review from John Valeri of Hartford Books Examiner
Missing Melissa is Alretha Thomas’ eighth novel but first mystery. In it, readers are introduced to twenty-two year old Madeline (“Maddie”) Patterson, a recent college graduate with an entry level position at a local television station. Maddie is just getting her first taste of real freedom by moving out of her family home and into an apartment with her bestie, Ruby (and her doting dog Pepper). She’s also found the courage to finally explore the most traumatic event of her past: the disappearance of her identical twin sister who is feared dead following a carjacking when both girls were three. Though Maddie and her mother were present on that long ago day, they escaped their attackers. And while the family has worked hard to put the event behind them, Maddie is convinced that Melissa is still alive—and that she’s been visiting her dreams to tell her so.
Despite her family’s misgivings, Maddie meets with the local authorities to pursue reopening the investigation. She is met with resistance due to the time that has elapsed since the crime (with the exception of one officer who takes an interest in more than just the case), but takes to Facebook under Ruby’s tutelage to share her mission with the world. As momentum begins to intensify, Maddie’s network comes on board to cover the cold case—and soon “Missing Melissa” is once again top-story news. But as tips begin to flood in, it’s Maddie’s own inquiries into the past that cause her to begin questioning the motives of her nearest and dearest. And, regardless of what she discovers, there is one absolute truth: nothing will ever be the same.
Thomas, who has a background in journalism and is also a playwright, writes with alacrity in this impressive genre debut. Not only are her characters engaging and multi-dimensional, but they also achieve that rare balance of being all too human but believably so. The mystery itself is both complex and intriguing, and the author’s subtle use of misdirection and red herrings should give even the most discerning reader pause. Take note: Alretha Thomas is a name to remember …