Book Review: Ghosts of the Missing

GHOSTS OF THE MISSING | Kathleen Donohoe
02.11.2020 | HMH Books
Rating: 3/5 stars


Culleton, New York is the home of writers, artists, and unsolved mysteries. After years of avoiding her hometown, Adair has been forced to return after being unable to make it as a successful artist in Brooklyn. She moves back into Moye House, her former home, as well as a well-known writer’s retreat steeped in family legacy and lore. 

Ciaran is a writer staying at Moye House who seeks out Adair. It seems they have more in common than a residence. Ciaran is the brother of a girl who vanished back in 1995, a girl who was Adair’s best friend. Rowan was known around Culleton as being shy and awkward, but seemed to thrive through her friendship with Adair. When she went missing the police could not form a full picture of her actions on that fateful day. Rowan’s case has never been solved, so Ciaran has decided after years of researching missing children to come to the spot of the disappearance in an effort to solve the case. What really happened to Rowan all those years ago?


GHOSTS OF THE MISSING is an intricately layered story surrounding the disappearance of a young girl. The reader never hears directly from Rowan, but instead learns the story through Adair across alternating timelines, as well as additional related narratives. It took me a bit of time to find my footing in this story, as I was expecting to be thrown into a missing person’s case, but was instead given a much longer route to that disappearance.

Kathleen Donohoe has a wonderful ability for crafting an atmospheric setting. I instantly could feel the age of the Moye House, the creepiness of the surrounding woods, and the overall small town vibe of Culleton. Donohoe was able to transport me to these various locations through detailed descriptions of the various places featured throughout the book. While meticulously describing these places I never felt things become too wordy or overly descriptive, which I greatly appreciated. 


When I initially opened the pages of GHOSTS OF MISSING I was expecting an intensely paced story, but what I found was much more of a slow burn. The reader is given so much history through narratives related to the past of Culleton in the beginning that it can feel a bit overwhelming. I highly recommend working your way through this dense material, as it does shed quite a bit of light on our main character Adair and her family history.

My favorite sections of this book were in present day, which for this story is 2010, and narrated by Adair. I love the layers Donohoe gave Adair’s character with her personal struggles, as well as emotional breadth. I found Adair easy to relate to and feel sympathetic towards, but what I loved most was the genuine care and love you can feel that Adair had for her long missing friend Rowan. 

For me the second half of this book was truly more impactful of a read, but do appreciate the fully formed depth to the entire book. I love books with small towns and learning all of the strange secrets that those living there hold. I don’t think that this book will work for someone walking in thinking it’s a thriller, but if you’re open to an interesting, open-ended story steeped in history, this could really be an amazing addition to your TBR!

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository

A huge thank you to TLC Book Tours and HMH Books for my free copy of this book!

Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.

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