There are few unsavory aspects of modern life that Kingsport native Kimberly Belle doesn’t weave into Three Days Missing, a thriller that tells a heart-racing story of a young boy gone missing.
Kat Jenkins has already been dealt plenty of blows—quite literally. She is in the process of divorcing her physically and emotionally abusive husband, Andrew, who does all he can to make the process as lengthy and costly as possible. Having left him and the security of his money behind, Kat now works in a dead-end job and lives on the wrong side of town.
Her East Atlanta neighborhood is “used to seeing cop cars roll by in the middle of the night,” Kat says. “The people who live on my street are rough chain-smoking women waving their fists at strangers from the stoop, potbellied men with gold teeth and faded tattoos, teens with saggy pants lounging on the curbs with kids too young to be smoking. … I thought marrying Andrew would save me from a neighborhood like this one, yet thanks to the countless sneaky smoke screens Andrew erected to hide his company’s money and assets, here I am all over again.”
The one bright light in Kat’s life is her eight-year-old son, Ethan. But the night after she drops Ethan off at the bus that will take him on a school field trip an hour away, Atlanta police show up on her own doorstep: Ethan has disappeared from the cabin where he was staying with his classmates. An exhaustive search for the boy ends in frustration after the cops use the wrong sleeping bag to orient search dogs to Ethan’s scent. But just as they are about to start all over, the mayor’s wife, who has a son on the same class trip, shows up to offer entirely new clues about what may have gone down.
Stef Huntington has everything Kat doesn’t: money, power, status, a respectable husband, and a boy who is safe and sound. Her son, Sammy, also happens to be Ethan’s primary tormenter, a classic bully who has made it his mission to pick on his intellectually gifted but socially awkward classmate. But in the interest of finding Ethan, Kat and Stef work together, sharing what they know with each other and the detectives working the case.
A white-knuckled adventure unfolds, featuring nuances of socioeconomic power disparities that make the book feel both authentic and satisfying. Belle, the bestselling author of The Marriage Lie, is particularly skilled at shaping deeply flawed characters who resonate as utterly credible and relatable. And that means that sometimes the bad guy—or at least the worst guy—is hiding in plain sight.
Liz Garrigan is the former editor of the Nashville Scene and Washington City Paper. She lives in Bangkok, Thailand.