The Missing Hours
reviewed by Sandra Hoover
At first glance, NYU freshman Claudia Castro appears to have it all. She’s a member of the elite – a trust fund baby with a famous father enjoying social status with mega social media followers – the envy of her NYU peers. Take off the rose colored glasses, and you’ll see a dysfunctional family in the process of disintegrating with devastating effects on Claudia leading to life altering bad decisions.
After a night of heavy drinking at a college party, Claudia awakes from a blackout to find her clothes in bloody disarray and body severely battered – black eye, split lip, black and blue bruises all over with painful urination. Aching and limping, Claudia’s mind is fuzzy and try as she may, she can’t fill in the missing hours. While it’s obvious she had rough sex, she’s mortified at the realization she doesn’t know if she participated freely or was raped. Shame and self-blame silence her, and she doesn’t seek help or counseling. Sound familiar?
Just as Claudia settles back into a semi-normal routine interrupted by frequent fraught psychotic episodes, disastrous evidence of what happened that fateful night surfaces on cell phones and social media, spreading like wildfire. Shamed, taunted, and chastised as a slut, Claudia is forced into the limelight where even her friends doubt her innocence. Social media becomes judge and jury, convicting her without a trial. Life as Claudia knows it is over. And then . . . she disappears. Her family is frantic. What happened to her?
The Missing Hours is a dark, edgy story of obsession, entitlement and consequences. For every action, there is a reaction. But are consequences the same for the privileged? One of the perpetrators on the cell phone video is from a wealthy, powerful family and the other is on the verge of a record contract worth millions. The stakes are high for them and their families who secretly work to silence those who dare accuse the men of rape. What makes this case different is that Claudia’s family also has the means to seek justice for their missing daughter, and it becomes a battle of the entitled.
Told from multiple points of view with short, choppy chapters that drive a frantic pace, this story is propelled forward with a dark atmosphere of malice. Bouncing from one narrator to the next, I burned through pages with trepidation trying to determine what really happened as Claudia herself still doesn’t know. As the story unfolds, readers will feel the tone of the story shift from deep despondency to rabid, flaming rage fed by dark, convoluted thoughts of retaliation and revenge raising the question . . . if the court system fails you, do you have the right to sentence those who have wronged you? Is using wealth for retaliation any different than using it for privilege? Does seeking retaliation ever really right a wrong?
Dahl gives readers a lot to think about in this riveting, traumatic story of one woman’s journey beyond assault, shame and self-blame to reclaim her life and mend ties with her family. It’s a violent story with rippling effects that impact way more than the obvious so readers should be prepared to look deeper for hidden questions. Intense, gritty and quite graphic, The Missing Hours will appeal to fans of suspense and those who enjoy a dark, angsty story of obsession and revenge with a few surprises along the way. Clear your calendar as you’ll want to read this book in one sitting.