The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield: Book Review

Missing Place, Sophie Littlefield, mystery, thriller, fiction, North DakotaFiction – Mystery / Thriller
Released October, 2014
384 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: eGalley provided by the publisher via NetGalley



Plot Summary of The Missing Place:

Shay and Colleen, the mothers of two boys (Taylor and Paul) who simultaneously went missing from their jobs on an oil rig in Lawton, North Dakota, team up to find out what happened to their sons.

My Thoughts on The Missing Place:

From the moment I picked up The Missing Place, I was drawn into the story of the disappearances of Taylor and Paul and the odd way of life on an oil rig in a tiny, remote town.

The plot kept me turning the pages.

Early on in the story, you discover that there are safety issues on the oil rigs and the companies that own them have been paying off the victims’ families to keep the stories out of the press. This could possibly have something to do with the boys’ disappearance. But, as you learn more and more about the boys’ lives, other possibilities arise. I kept thinking I’d figured out where the story was going to go, only to find out I was wrong…again and again. I thought the final explanation was a bit of a letdown, but this didn’t bother me too much because…

What really made this book for me was the setting…

Lawton, ND is a tiny town that has been overrun with people due to the sudden oil drilling. There are few hotels and no vacancies…people sleep in their cars in the Walmart parking lot. Men working on the rigs live in “man camps” made of industrial sized containers, so they can be quickly dismantled when the boom ends. The few women in town are treated like chum in a shark tank, especially when they visit the Walmart. And, it is beyond cold.

I was totally immersed in this eerie, Twilight Zone-type world that is essentially a temporary civilization dropped in the middle of nowhere that could disappear at any moment. The entire place feels almost like a dream…and, when you leave, you may end up questioning whether you’d ever been there at all.

And the dynamic between Shay and Colleen…

Shay (Taylor’s mom) is a rough and tumble single mother who has had to scrape by her whole life, while Colleen (Paul’s mom) is the East Coast wife of a successful lawyer. Neither mom is entirely likable, but Shay and Colleen play off each other with an entertaining yin and yang dynamic. They reminded me a little of Thelma and Louise on a much more serious mission. Each woman brings different skills to the table and has a grudging respect for the other, though they are perplexed by each other’s habits. Though I didn’t particularly like either of them, I liked the combination of them and was rooting for them to succeed as they hit stone wall after stone wall.

And, the “issues”.

Littlefield covers issues like oil rig safety, corporate cover-ups, Indian Tribal Law and reservation dynamics (there is an Indian reservation in Lawton that leases some of the drilling land to the big oil companies), issues with raising boys, and ADHD and aggressive behavior. This wide variety of issues gave The Missing Place a depth beyond your run of the mill thriller and made it less reliant on plot.

The Missing Place is a unique thriller and is going on my Book Club Recommendations List.

You May Also Like:
Defending Jacob by William Landay
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
The Fever by Megan Abbott

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  1. Great review, Sarah! I really enjoyed reading this; the accuracy of your descriptions had me reliving this book and remembering how much I enjoyed reading it. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, as well. I am sitting here, at work, dying to finish Station Eleven; I’m so close…Thanks for sharing this great review!

    Posted 1.5.15 Reply
  2. I don’t read a lot of thrillers, but I’m completely intrigued by this eeriness! Sounds perfect to read during the summer on camping/hiking trips through small towns in the middle of nowhere.

    Posted 5.24.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      This one didn’t feel like a regular thriller (which is why I liked it)…you’ve got all the oil rig safety politics going on and this completely Twilight Zone type setting. But, kind of weird that I recommended a book set in a frozen tundra as a beach read, now that I think about it – ha!

      Posted 5.24.15 Reply

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