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Book: “Chloe Cates Is Missing” by Mandy McHugh
Publishing Info: Scarlet, February 2022
Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.
Book Description: The disappearance of a young internet celebrity ignites a firestorm of speculation on social media, and to find her a detective will have to extinguish the blaze.
Chloe Cates is missing. The 13-year-old star of the hit YouTube series, “CC and Me,” has disappeared, and nobody knows where she’s gone — least of all ruthless momager Jennifer Scarborough, who has spent much of her daughter’s young life crafting a child celebrity persona that is finally beginning to pay off. And in Chloe’s absence, the faux-fairytale world that supported that persona begins to fracture, revealing secrets capable of reducing the highly-dysfunctional Scarborough family to rubble.
Anxious to find her daughter and preserve the life she’s worked so hard to build, Jennifer turns to social media for help, but the hearsay, false claims, and salacious suspicions only multiply. As the search becomes as sensational as Chloe’s series, Missing Persons detective Emilina Stone steps in, only to realize she has a connection to this case herself. Will she be able to stay objective and cut through the rumors to find the truth before it’s too late?
Told from multiple points of view including Jennifer, Emilina, and pages from Chloe’s lost diary, Chloe Cates Is Missing is a suspenseful novel of a child pushed to the brink, and of the troubled family that desperately needs her back.
Review: Have you ever been in a situation where you have a book on your radar that you are super interested in, and are super looking forward to, but once you do get your hands on it it just keeps getting bumped in favor of more pressing books? This is what happened with me and “Chloe Cates Is Missing” by Mandy McHugh. It seriously has so many tidbits and plot points that are my catnip. You have a missing girl, you have a ‘social media is a dangerous sea’ theme, you have an overbearing perhaps insidious mother figure, and you have a dour lady cop with baggage and a secret. Like, holy cats, so many things! So when I finally sat down and said to myself ‘IT IS TIME!’, I had high hopes due to building anticipation due to my own poor book time management and rambling promises of finally getting down to it.
When all is said and done, I found “Chloe Cates Is Missing” to be an addictive read. I basically sat down and read it over a couple of nights, or during my kid’s nap time, becoming fully and totally immersed in the mystery and the layers and layers of drama. We follow multiple perspectives to tell the story of the missing influencer/blog personality, thirteen year old Chloe Cates, real name Abby Scarborough. The first is that of her mom/momager Jennifer, whose obsession with the blog and how it has made her daughter Internet famous has caused severe damage to her family relationships. The second is Jackson, Jennifer’s husband/Abby’s Dad, who has gone along with the blog due to not wanting to anger his wife, no matter how much Abby is being hurt by it. The third is Emilina Stone, the detective assigned to the missing child case, who also has a distant connection to Jennifer (and a shared secret they both want to keep hidden). And finally we also get the perspective of Abby/Chloe herself, through diary entries. It’s a tried and true device, but I enjoyed how McHugh would use it to jump a little bit through the timeline, either to a few minutes before where one perspective left off, or back years and years, and how that added to the breakneck pacing. It was also a good way to misdirect or distract the reader, as we’d cut off one moment and jump to a whole new one, and I liked that strategy.
The characters themselves are a bit familiar in terms of the archetypes they represent. Emilinia is probably the most fleshed out, as her job as a detective means she has to deal with a lot of bleak and dark things, which has made her question the goodness of the world around her, as well as whether or not she would want to foist the darkness of the world on those she loves and cares for. But there is also a whole other dynamic of her having this job, which comes back to her relationship with Jennifer. No spoilers here, but I will say that the two of them share a secret, and Emilina’s choice of work may be a way of trying to atone. Jennifer, on the other hand, is pretty over the top villainous here. At first it seemed that there may have been a little bit of nuance to her character, giving her perspective of how alienating and uncomfortable being a new mother can be, but that went out the window pretty quickly. I don’t have a problem with having an antagonist you love to hate, as it’s entertaining as hell and makes for even more addictive reading, so it worked for me in the end.
I will say, however, that there was another big twist right at the last minute, as has been seen in so many thriller novels and always bugs me a bit. This almost certainly comes down to personal preference in storytelling, but it still made the read end on a bit of a sour note just because it shifted things so quickly right before the last moments. We don’t need to have one final gotcha! There were plenty of satisfying gotchas!
So outside of an ending that frustrated me, I found “Chloe Cates Is Missing” to be a very quick and fun read. I waited so long, and it was worth the wait.
Rating 7: The ending was a little bit of a dime’s turn switch for me, but man was I along for the ride up until that point.
“Chloe Cates Is Missing” is included on the Goodreads list “Mystery & Thriller 2022”.