9 High-Stakes Mystery Novels About Missing Persons Cases

Jennifer Proffitt
August 25 2022
Share 9 High-Stakes Mystery Novels About Missing Persons Cases

If you were a child in the ’90s, you inevitably read The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney. It was a book that definitely made an impression on many readers. For adult readers, there are now so many books that fit this same vibe—and even if you are not familiar with the ’90s classic, there’s something about solving the case of a missing person that reels in a reader like no other plot. Many of these books feature a “missing person” element, but each has their own unique twist. Whether the protagonist is the one who was taken, the one solving the case of a missing person, or the one accused of the kidnapping, readers will be hunting for clues on every page of these mysteries.

The Last to Vanish
by Megan Miranda

Megan Miranda’s THE LAST TO VANISH follows residents of a town haunted by the history of its “Vanishing Trail.” When a journalist arrives to investigate the trail and its origins, he too becomes one of the vanished. Soon, his brother, Trey, shows up to find him and, with the help of Abby, the innkeeper of the resort where the journalist was staying, follows the clues that bring them closer to the truth about the disappearances.

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The Last to Vanish
Megan Miranda

New York Times bestselling author Megan Miranda returns with a gripping and propulsive thriller that opens with the disappearance of a journalist who is investigating a string of vanishings in the resort town of Cutter’s Pass—will its dark secrets finally be revealed?

Ten years ago, Abigail Lovett fell into a job she loves, managing The Passage Inn, a cozy, upscale resort nestled in the North Carolina mountain town of Cutter’s Pass. Cutter’s Pass is best known for its outdoor offerings—rafting and hiking, with access to the Appalachian trail by way of a gorgeous waterfall—and its mysterious history. As the book begins, the string of unsolved disappearances that has haunted the town is once again thrust into the spotlight when journalist Landon West, who was staying at the inn to investigate the story of the vanishing trail, then disappears himself.

Abby has sometimes felt like an outsider within the community, but she’s come to view Cutter’s Pass as her home. When Landon’s brother Trey shows up looking for answers, Abby can’t help but feel the town closing ranks. And she’s still on the outside. When she finds incriminating evidence that may bring them closer to the truth, Abby soon discovers how little she knows about her coworkers, neighbors, and even those closest to her.

Megan Miranda brings her best writing to The Last to Vanish, a riveting thriller filled with taut suspense and shocking twists that will keep you guessing until the very end.

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The Missing Place
by Sophie Littlefield

The oil business is booming in small-town North Dakota. With all the workers coming and going from the “man camps” set up to process the overflow of new town residents, it’s easy for people to disappear. In THE MISSING PLACE by Sophie Littlefield, Colleen and Shay couldn’t be more different, but they are united by the same mission: to find their missing sons. But the oil company that is at the heart of the town’s prosperity might also be at the center of these disappearances—or at the very least helping to cover them up.

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The Missing Place
Sophie Littlefield

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.

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The Other Passenger
by Louise Candlish

Jamie was supposed to be commuting to work with his charismatic neighbor, Kit. When Kit doesn’t turn up for the boat one day, all eyes turn to Jamie for answers in THE OTHER PASSENGER by Louise Candlish. While Jamie proclaims his innocence, there’s another passenger who witnessed an argument between the two men. Who is this mystery passenger? Is Jamie truly innocent? Readers will be unsure of the answers until the very end of this deceptive and twisty mystery.

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The Other Passenger
Louise Candlish

The “queen of the sucker-punch twist” (Ruth Ware, #1 New York Times bestselling author) and author of Our House weaves “a stunning masterwork of style and suspense” (Jeffery Deaver, New York Times bestselling author) about a commuter who becomes a suspect in his friend’s mysterious disappearance. Perfect for fans of the unputdownable page-turners by Christina McDonald and Lisa Jewell.

It all happens so quickly. One day you’re living the dream, commuting to work by ferry with your charismatic neighbor Kit in the seat beside you. The next, Kit hasn’t turned up for the boat and his wife, Melia, has reported him missing.

When you get off at your stop, the police are waiting. Another passenger saw you and Kit arguing on the boat home the night before and the police say that you had a reason to want him dead. You protest. You and Kit are friends—ask Melia, she’ll vouch for you. And who exactly is this other passenger pointing the finger? What do they know about your lives?

No, whatever danger followed you home last night, you are innocent, totally innocent.

Aren’t you?

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The Night She Disappeared
by Lisa Jewell

A year after a young woman and her boyfriend went missing from a massive country estate, a writer moves into a cottage that borders the estate. The dense wood surrounding the cottage has become known as the Dark Place, but the foreboding forest is a favorite area for this writer to wander—until the day she finds a note that reads, “DIG HERE.” Readers will dig for clues of their own as they search for answers to explain what happened to the young couple in THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED by Lisa Jewell.

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The Night She Disappeared
Lisa Jewell

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone comes “her best thriller yet” (Harlan Coben, New York Times bestselling author) about a young couple’s disappearance on a gorgeous summer night, and the mother who will never give up trying to find them.

On a beautiful summer night in a charming English suburb, a young woman and her boyfriend disappear after partying at the massive country estate of a new college friend.

One year later, a writer moves into a cottage on the edge of the woods that border the same estate. Known locally as the Dark Place, the dense forest is the writer’s favorite place for long walks and it’s on one such walk that she stumbles upon a mysterious note that simply reads, “DIG HERE.”

Could this be a clue towards what has happened to the missing young couple? And what exactly is buried in this haunted ground?

“Utterly gripping with richly drawn, hugely compelling characters, this is a first-class thriller with heart” (Lucy Foley, New York Times bestselling author) that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

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Monday's Not Coming
by Tiffany D. Jackson

Monday and Claudia are inseparable, until one day when Monday doesn’t show up for the first day of school—or the second—and Claudia knows something has happened to her in Tiffany D. Jackson’s MONDAY’S NOT COMING. Monday’s family keeps providing conflicting information and no one seems to know exactly when they last saw Monday, so it’s up to Claudia to investigate her friend’s disappearance.

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Monday's Not Coming
Tiffany D. Jackson

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Two Little Girls in Blue
by Mary Higgins Clark

One night, two girls go missing, and only one comes home alive. In TWO LITTLE GIRLS IN BLUE by Mary Higgins Clark, the Frawley family has just enjoyed a third birthday celebration for their twins, Kelly and Kathy, when both girls are kidnapped. After a harrowing search, Kelly is found alive, her kidnapper dead by suicide; her sister is presumed dead. With no body, but a confession in the kidnapper’s suicide note, the Frawleys hold a memorial for Kathy. Then Kelly reveals to her mother that Kathy may still be alive. The revelation begins the manhunt anew for the missing sister. This mystery gets a paranormal twist as Kelly begins to reveal oddly specific information that can only be explained by her unique—and potentially telepathic—connection to her sister.

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Two Little Girls in Blue
Mary Higgins Clark

Queen of Suspense and #1 New York Times bestselling writer Mary Higgins Clark brilliantly weaves the mystery of twin telepathy into a mother’s search for a kidnapped child, presumed dead in this “riveting…suspense thriller [that] is certain to send terror into the heart of any parent” (Publishers Weekly).

Hours after throwing a third birthday party for their twins Kathy and Kelly in their Connecticut home, Margaret and Steve Frawley return home from a dinner in New York to discover the police in the house, their daughters missing, and an eight million dollar ransom note. The Frawleys meet the kidnapper’s demands, but the abandoned car they’re led to contains only Kelly, the body of the driver, and a suicide note, saying he had inadvertently killed Kathy and dumped her body in the ocean.

At the private memorial Mass for Kathy, Kelly tugs Margaret’s arm and says that her sister Kathy “wants to come home right now.” More unexplainable occurrences indicate that Kelly is in touch with Kathy, but no one except Margaret believes that Kathy is still alive. As Kelly’s warnings become increasingly specific and alarming, however, FBI agents set out on a search for the kidnappers as Kathy’s life hangs by a thread.

Delving into the well-documented but still unexplained phenomenon of twin telepathy, worldwide #1 bestseller Mary Higgins Clark takes us deep into the minds of her characters while lifting us to the heights of suspense.

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Good Girl, Bad Girl
by Michael Robotham

Forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven is called in to determine the future of one young woman with an unknown past and find justice for another who had a secret life. Evie Cormac is the name she goes by now, but six years ago she was found as a young teen: filthy, half-starved, and nameless in a secret room in the aftermath of a terrible crime. Cyrus must decide if Evie can be released as an adult after spending years in a secure children’s home. Meanwhile, Cyrus investigates the death of Jodie Sheehan. She was a champion figure skater, but his analysis of her life reveals this girl next door had plenty of secrets. Readers will be asked to draw their own conclusions about the experiences of these two very different women in GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL by Michael Robotham.

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Good Girl, Bad Girl
Michael Robotham

Finalist for the 2020 Edgar Award for Best Novel

From the internationally bestselling author who Stephen King calls “an absolute master,” a fiendishly clever thriller about a dangerous young woman with the ability to know when someone is lying—and the criminal psychologist who must outwit her to survive.

A girl is discovered hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a terrible crime. Half-starved and filthy, she won’t tell anyone her name, or her age, or where she came from. Maybe she is twelve, maybe fifteen. She doesn’t appear in any missing persons file, and her DNA can’t be matched to an identity. Six years later, still unidentified, she is living in a secure children’s home with a new name, Evie Cormac. When she initiates a court case demanding the right to be released as an adult, forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven must determine if Evie is ready to go free. But she is unlike anyone he’s ever met—fascinating and dangerous in equal measure. Evie knows when someone is lying, and no one around her is telling the truth.

Meanwhile, Cyrus is called in to investigate the shocking murder of a high school figure-skating champion, Jodie Sheehan, who died on a lonely footpath close to her home. Pretty and popular, Jodie is portrayed by everyone as the ultimate girl-next-door, but as Cyrus peels back the layers, a secret life emerges—one that Evie Cormac, the girl with no past, knows something about. A man haunted by his own tragic history, Cyrus is caught between the two cases—one girl who needs saving and another who needs justice. What price will he pay for the truth?

Emotionally explosive, swiftly paced, and “haunting…Robotham expertly raises the tension as the action hurtles toward the devastating climax” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

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A History of Wild Places
by Shea Ernshaw

In A HISTORY OF WILD PLACES by Shea Ernshaw, Travis Wren has been hired by the family of Maggie St. James to track down the well-known author. His uncanny ability to find people brings him to Pastoral, a reclusive commune that shouldn’t exist anymore. Almost as soon as he finds it, Travis also goes missing. Years later, his abandoned truck is found just beyond the border of the community. This discovery sends a shockwave through the group that leaves its members questioning if their perfect world is really as idyllic as it appears.

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A History of Wild Places
Shea Ernshaw

In this “riveting, atmospheric thriller that messes with your mind in the best way” (Laini Taylor, New York Times bestselling author), three residents of a secluded, seemingly peaceful commune investigate the disappearances of two outsiders.

Travis Wren has an unusual talent for locating missing people. Often hired by families as a last resort, he takes on the case of Maggie St. James—a well-known author of dark, macabre children’s books—and is soon led to a place many believed to be only a legend.

Called Pastoral, this reclusive community was founded in the 1970s by like-minded people searching for a simpler way of life. By all accounts, the commune shouldn’t exist anymore and soon after Travis stumbles upon it…he disappears. Just like Maggie St. James.

Years later, Theo, a lifelong member of Pastoral, discovers Travis’s abandoned truck beyond the border of the community. No one is allowed in or out, not when there’s a risk of bringing a disease—rot—into Pastoral. Unraveling the mystery of what happened reveals secrets that Theo, his wife, Calla, and her sister, Bee, keep from one another. Secrets that prove their perfect, isolated world isn’t as safe as they believed—and that darkness takes many forms.

“As spine-chilling as it is beautifully crafted” (Ruth Emmie Lang, author of Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance), A History of Wild Places is a story about fairy tales, our fear of the dark, and losing yourself within the wilderness of your mind.

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Her One Mistake
by Heidi Perks

Charlotte was supposed to be watching her three children and the child of her best friend, Harriet, at the school fair. Despite Charlotte’s careful efforts to keep an eye on all four children, her best friend’s daughter, Alice, goes missing in HER ONE MISTAKE by Heidi Perks. Devastated by her loss and feeling betrayed by her friend, Harriet isolates herself. Soon, the police are asking pointed questions of both women and secrets come to light. The former confidantes must learn to trust each other again if Harriet hopes to be reunited with her daughter.

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Her One Mistake
Heidi Perks

What should have been a fun-filled, carefree day takes a tragic turn for the worse for one mother when her best friend’s child goes missing in this “seriously page-turning” (Lisa Jewell, New York Times bestselling author), suspenseful, and darkly twisted psychological thriller that is perfect for fans of Christina McDonald and Liz Nugent.

Charlotte was supposed to be looking after the children, and she swears she was. But while her three kids are all safe and sound at the school fair, Alice, her best friend Harriet’s daughter, is nowhere to be found. Frantically searching everywhere, Charlotte knows she must find the courage to tell Harriet that her beloved only child is missing—and admit that she’s solely to blame.

Harriet, devastated by this unbearable loss, can no longer bring herself to speak to Charlotte again, much less trust her. Struggling to keep her marriage afloat, Harriet is more isolated than ever. But as the police bear down on both women, trying to piece together the puzzle of what happened to this little girl, dark secrets begin to surface—and Harriet discovers that trusting Charlotte again may be the only thing that will reunite her with her daughter...

“A chilling, captivating story of friendship, motherhood, and deceit” (Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author), Her One Mistake will keep you guessing until the very last page.

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Photo credit: iStock / Robby Fontanesi

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