Cover image for The missing place
The missing place
Littlefield, Sophie, author.
First Gallery Books paperback edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Gallery Books, 2014.
Physical Description:
367 pages ; 21 cm
"When two young men vanish from an oil rig in North Dakota, no one seems in a hurry to find them--except their mothers, two women from very different worlds who must work together to find their sons"--
General Note:
"A novel"--Cover.

Includes reader's extras.
Format :


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FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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Set against the backdrop of North Dakota's oil boom, two very different mothers form an uneasy alliance to find their missing sons in this heartrending and suspenseful novel from the Edgar Award-nominated author of Garden of Stones .

The booming North Dakota oil business is spawning "man camps," shantytowns full of men hired to work on the rigs, in towns without enough housing to accommodate them. In such twilight spaces, it's easy for a person to vanish. And when two young men in their first year on the job disappear without a trace, only their mothers believe there's hope of finding them. Despite reassurances that the police are on the case, the two women think the oil company is covering up the disappearances--and maybe something more.

Colleen, used to her decorous life in a wealthy Massachusetts suburb, is determined to find her son. And hard-bitten Shay, from the wrong side of the California tracks, is the only person in town even willing to deal with her--because she's on the same mission. Overtaxed by worry, exhaustion, and fear, these two unlikely partners question each other's methods and motivations, but must work together against the town of strangers if they want any chance of finding their lost boys. But what they uncover could destroy them both...

Sure to please fans of Sandra Brown and Gillian Flynn, The Missing Place is a moving chronicle of survival, determination, and powerful bonds forged in the face of adversity.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Colleen Mitchell arrives in Lawton, North Dakota, without a car or a place to stay. All she knows is that her son, Paul, who works on an oil rig, has been missing for more than a week. She meets Shay Capparelli, whose son, Taylor, worked with Paul and has also disappeared. Shay is from working-class California, and she resents Colleen's attempts to throw her Boston money at the problem. Besides, she knows Hunter-Cole Energy won't talk, and neither will the town's police chief, who is convinced the boys are just sowing wild oats. As the women form an uneasy alliance, Shay reveals her inner Erin Brokovich, while Colleen resents the progress her husband makes at home (with the help of her best friend). Safety violations covered up, mineral rights on a nearby ­reservation the evidence against Hunter-Cole is damning, but it brings them no closer to their sons. The nail-biting tension fizzles somewhat when the truth comes out, but this story is really about two mothers who won't give up, and one who can't let go.--Maguire, Susan Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Two women from opposite ends of the country, and the socioeconomic spectrum, join forces in a desperate race to discover what happened to their missing oil rig worker sons in this moving mystery from Edgar-finalist Littlefield (House of Glass). Until Colleen Mitchell, the superficial wife of an attorney living in a pricey Boston suburb, and Shay Capparelli, a financially strapped California single mom and spitfire, meet in desolate Lawton, N.Dak., each believes her son to be the only one missing, an error neither stonewalling local police nor the boys' safety-be-damned employer Hunter-Cole Energy chooses to correct. Combining their complementary skills-Shay's doggedness, Colleen's diplomacy-the mothers start to make some headway, but that may not be enough to outmaneuver the forces trying to stymie them (or to overcome their simmering mutual distrust). While some plot twists aren't so surprising, Littlefield maximizes the emotional impact of her character-driven cautionary tale. Agent: Barbara Poelle, Irene Goodman Literary Agency. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Colleen Mitchell travels to Lawton, ND, in search of her missing son. Paul had been working the oil rigs for Hunter-Cole Energy but suddenly stopped showing up for work. While her husband and Hunter-Cole want to label Paul's disappearance as youthful hijinks, Colleen feels that there is another piece to the story. She becomes even more convinced when she learns that Paul is not the only young employee to go missing. Colleen teams up with Shay, the mother of the other missing young man, to find their children. Because of their difference in wealth and class, Colleen and Shay clash right away. They struggle not only with each other but with the brutal weather and the stonewall they get from the locals and from Hunter-Cole representatives. Verdict While Littlefield is an Anthony Award-winning crime fiction author (A Bad Day for Sorry), the mystery aspect is the novel's weakest part. Red herrings abound, and the eventual resolution is disappointing, given the strong buildup. This story succeeds when it focuses on the character of Shay; readers will wish to have more of her perspective. Those looking for a family drama with an unusual setting would enjoy this book. [See Prepub Alert, 4/6/14.]-Lynnanne Pearson, Skokie P.L., IL (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The Missing Place one COLLEEN MITCHELL'S WORLD had been reduced to the two folded sheets of paper she clutched tightly in her left hand. She'd been holding them since leaving Sudbury at four thirty that morning, even when she went through security at Logan, even during the layover in Minneapolis, where she paced numbly up and down the terminal. The paper was slightly damp now and softened from too much handling. Nobody wrote real letters anymore. Especially not kids. All through middle school, Colleen had forced Paul to write thank-you notes by hand every birthday and Christmas; the monogrammed stationery was still around somewhere, up in the dusty shelves of his closet. Once high school started, they had bigger battles to fight, and she gave up on the notes. When was the last time she'd even seen her son's blocky, leaning handwriting? There must be papers--class notes, tests--in the boxes he'd brought back from Syracuse, but Colleen hadn't had the heart to open any of them, and they too were stacked in the closet. Nowadays Paul texted, that was all, and in Colleen's hand was a printout of all the texts from him. God bless Vicki--she'd figured out how to print them in neat columns so they fit on two double-sided pages and had emailed Colleen the file too, "just in case." Colleen had read them a hundred times. They went back four months, to last September. All the communications from her son since he left--and they fit on two pages. One more indictment of her parenting, of what she'd done wrong or too much or not enough. SEPTEMBER 27, 2010, 2:05 PM Got it thx That was the oldest one. Colleen couldn't remember what Paul had been thanking her for. Probably one of her care packages--she sent them all throughout last autumn, boxes packed with homemade brownies and Sky Bars and paperback books she knew he'd never read. But when Paul came home for Thanksgiving (well, the week after Thanksgiving, but she and Andy and Andy's brother Rob and Rob's girlfriend had delayed the whole turkey-and-pie production until Paul could be there; Andy had even taped the games and waited to watch them with him), he made it clear that the packages embarrassed him. Next was a series of texts from her: OCTOBER 28, 2010, 9:16 AM Hi sweetie dad has enough frequent flyer miles for u to come home when you're off OCTOBER 29, 2010, 7:44 AM When are you off again? OCTOBER 30, 2010, 11:50 PM Wish u were here for hween the flannigans have the pumpkin lights in the trees Like he was eleven, for God's sake, and off at sleepaway camp, instead of twenty, a man. A small sob escaped Colleen's throat, an expulsion of the panic that she'd mostly got under control. She covered the sound with a cough. In her carry-on was half a bottle of Paxil, which Dr. Garrity had given her over a year ago before they settled on a regimen of red clover extract and the occasional Ambien to treat what was, he assured her, a perfectly normal transition into menopause. She hadn't liked the Paxil; it made her feel dizzy and sometimes sweaty, but she'd packed the bottle yesterday along with her own sleeping pills and Andy's too. She hadn't told him, and she felt a little guilty about that, but he'd be able to get a refill tomorrow. She'd leave a message with the doctor's answering service when they landed, and then all he'd have to do was pick it up. Colleen refolded the papers and rested her forehead against the airplane window, looking out into the night. The plane had begun its descent. The flight attendant had made her announcement--they'd be on the ground a few minutes before ten, the temperature was one degree, winds at something. One degree was cold. But Boston got cold too, and it didn't bother Colleen the way it did some people. Far below, rural North Dakota was lit up by the moon, a vast rolling plain of silvery snow interrupted here and there by rocky swaths where the land rose up in ridges. Colleen tried to remember if she'd ever been to either Dakota. She couldn't even remember the names of the capitals--Pierre? Was that one of them? A flare of orange caught her eye, a rippling brightness surrounded by a yawning black hole in the snow. And there. And there! Half a dozen of them dotting the bleak landscape, blazes so bright they looked unnatural, the Day-Glo of a traffic cone. Colleen's first thought was forest fire, but there were no trees, and then she thought of the burning piles of trash she saw sometimes in Mattapan or Dorchester. But people didn't burn trash at night, and besides, there were no houses, no town, just-- And then she saw it, the tall burred spire like an old-time radio tower, and she knew, even as they flew past, that she had seen her first rig. The plane was still too far up for her to make out any details except that it looked so small, so flimsy, almost like a child's toy--a Playmobil oil rig play set with little plastic roughnecks. The plane tipped down, the engine shifted, and so did the men, the tired-looking, ill-shaven lot of them who'd boarded with her in Minneapolis. They turned off their iPads and crumpled their paper coffee cups and cleared the sleep from their throats. Colleen closed her eyes, the image of the rig imprinted in her mind, and as they approached Lawton, she thought, Give him back, you have to give him back to me. Excerpted from The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.