‘Charlie, Presumed Dead’ – Anne Hetzel

The book opens with Aubrey in Paris about to attend the funeral of her boyfriend, Charlie, who is missing, presumed dead, after a plane crash. She is upset…but more so when a young woman called Lena stands at the funeral to talk about Charlie, her boyfriend.

People in this situation may well run a mile. But Aubrey and Lena are curious, and they start talking. They discover that each of them was dating Charlie, and yet they are suspicious that things are not quite as they seem.

What follows is quite absurd. The girls embark on a quite preposterous trip around places of significance. They try to meet people who knew Charlie as they work out what happened. Travelling around the world and putting themselves in increasingly dangerous situations was entertaining to read about, though only if you completely suspend your disbelief.

Where the book became less successful was in the third narrator’s voice, that of Charlie. This is a young man who seemed to be in the grips of some mental breakdown, and definitely not in full control of his faculties. Not quite the victim we think, Charlie knows details about a number of people he knows and is quite happy to torment them as part of a bigger plan. Unfortunately we never quite get to work out the point of it as the focus at the end shifts rather abruptly and we’re left in a dilemma. It seems this should have more to come, but there’s no sign that this is the case, which is more than a little dissatisfying.