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Missing Persons    by Stephen White order for
Missing Persons
by Stephen White
Order:  USA  Can
Dutton, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Stephen White is a vintage writer, and Missing Persons, his latest in the Dr. Alan Gregory series, does not disappoint. Dr. Diane Estevez and Gregory prepare to leave for a seminar in Las Vegas. They first check on colleague Dr. Hannah Grant, who is covering their counseling practice while they are away. They find her pocket book in the middle of her office floor, and her body in the adjoining office of Dr. Mary Black. Accidental death or murder? The medical examiner labels her death unknown causes.

Alan, wife Lauren (prosecutor for Boulder County), and three-year old daughter Grace prepare to leave for a skiing trip. The television media reports a fourteen-year old girl's disappearance from her home on Christmas Eve. The disappearance of Mallory Miller parallels another case of eight years before, when a girl was taken within three blocks of the Mallory's home. The Miller parents (Bill and Rachel) are separated. Diane reveals to Alan that the deceased Hannah had therapy sessions with the missing girl. Coincidentally, Alan's records show that he had counseled the parents in the past for Rachel Miller's behavior disorder - she attends many weddings every month, giving the unknown newlyweds expensive gifts. As Dr. Gregory puts it, 'Enter moi.'

An abundant snowfall hit the area on Christmas Eve. Alan questions the time frame of Mallory's disappearance compared to phone call records, and is puzzled at the absence of footprints in the new-fallen snow. There seems to be a connection between Hannah's death and missing Mallory. Patient Bob Grant, employee of the University, always shows up on schedule for therapy sessions with Dr. Gregory. Grant has become obsessed with the girl's disappearance, and informs Alan that he is writing a book entitled 'Little Runaway'. He also reveals that he knows 'some things not in the news' about Mallory (Grant stores his automobile in a rented garage next-door to the Millers.

Then Bob disappears. He did give Alan a partial copy of his novel but asked him not to read it without permission. Alan's muses about the ethics of reading the partial manuscript, 'Right or wrong, I'd already rationalized that Bob's apparent disappearance was a sufficiently emergent circumstance to void the previous arrangement, anyway. I was beginning to feel so adept at rationalization that I was considering running for Congress.' Dr. Mary Black, on leave from her practice for the birth of triplets, seems to know something. Dr. Estevez goes missing in Vegas, where she traveled to look for Mallory's mother Rachel. Diane's husband Raoul travels to Vegas to find his wife, involving unsavory persons (including a man named Canada) in the search.

Once a reader picks up the novel, it's hard to put down, as momentum snowballs with each turn of a page. Gregory's investigation involves discussion and introspection, exploring what if's and questioning unknowns. Stephen White, a clinical psychologist, effectively weaves behavior disorders - such as schizophrenia, schizoid, and bipolar disorder - into the story, along with pithy wisdom such as 'The Internet for all its interpersonal anonymity, is a schizoid's dream.' And I enjoyed his references to the story's home state, as in 'Coloradan's don't tolerate gray skies with any equanimity'. This is the first I'd read by Stephen White, and I highly recommend Missing Persons to mystery buffs as a masterly read.

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