99 Red Balloons
By Elisabeth Carpenter
A young girl is talking to a stranger in a Newsagents. The man is telling her that her mum asked him to fetch her and take her to the bus station where she has a surprise for her for being such a good girl at school.
Grace was walking home from school with her friends and disappeared when they went into the local news agents. Nobody has seen her since.
Maggie’s granddaughter, Zoe, was taken in 1986 and was never found. Now Maggie is the only one left to cherish her memory and to know the pain of not having her in her life. Now she finds herself increasingly obsessed with Grace's disappearance and the weird similarities with Zoe's disappearance.
99 Red Balloons was a spur of the moment request and was a welcome break after my previous read. It was easy to read and enjoyable and I had finished it in a day.
Chapter one begins with a young girl talking to a stranger in a Newsagents. The man is telling her that her mum asked him to fetch her and take her to the bus station where she has a surprise for her for being such a good girl at school. At this point the alarm bells in my head were ringing.
Elisabeth Carpenter keeps a sense of suspense going throughout the book so I literally didn’t want to put my kindle down until I had finished every last bit. I wanted to know what happened to the characters long after the main twists had passed.
The man tells the young girl that he has some medicine for her take to stop her getting car sick. At this point if I had been watching the tv I would have been shouting at the girl not to drink it.
“After, I’ve drunk it, I give the plastic cup -lid back to him. I’m really tired. There are things I have to say to him, like, Mummy’s never mentioned anyone called George and, I never get car sick, but I can’t because my mouth doesn’t work anymore.”
The next chapter is written from the perspective of a woman called Stephanie who turns up at her sister Emma’s house to find out that her niece, Grace, is missing.
I felt as though 99 Red Balloons did an excellent job of capturing the sense of chaos, bewilderment and guilt that would surround the disappearance of a child.
Grace was walking home from school with her friends and disappeared when they went into the local news agents. Nobody has seen her since. As the evening continues Emma and Grace’s father Matt become increasingly concerned. Grace always comes straight home from school and nothing has happened to suggest she has run away.
Steph’s own son is much older than Grace but he is as upset as everyone else because she is like a sister to him.
Emma asks Steph to get hold of their mum but she is hard to track down and appears to be pretty flippant about the whole thing. This annoys Steph and serves to illustrate the difficult nature of their relationship.
“Mum only lives ten minutes away – traffic can’t be that bad. I don’t know how she stayed so calm. If it were my granddaughter, I’d run as fast as I could to get here.”
When the police come Steph feels a bit as though the whole family is being vilified and the suggestion is being made that it is all their fault.
“The detective scratches his forehead with his pen. Perhaps he’s thinking that a few minutes ago Grace was too young for a computer, and now she’s old enough to walk home on her own. It feels as though Emma and Matt will be judged on the decisions they made for her.”
The police ask if they family can think of anyone who might have a grudge against them or any reason to take the child. It soon becomes clear that Steph and Matt have a secret that they want to keep hidden but with Emma hiding a secret of her own who knows what the motive for taking Grace could be. All I know is it made for a suspenseful book.
My favourite character of 99 Red Ballloons is Maggie. The chapters from Maggie’s perspective provide the reader with the perspective of what can happen to a family who have lost their child and never found her. Maggie’s granddaughter, Zoe, was taken in 1986 and was never found. Now Maggie is the only one left to cherish her memory and to know the pain of not having her in her life.
Maggie’s past dominates every aspect of her life and haunts her constantly. If it wasn’t for her friendship with her husband’s friend Jim I think she would be in an even worse situation.
“I try not to think what she might have looked like if her picture had been taken every year after that. About how proud Sarah would have been of her. I try not to feel bitter every time I see her old school friends standing at the gates of the school down the road, adults now, waiting for children of their own. I simply let it stab me once, in the heart, before I bury it again. We used to talk about Zoe every day. I don’t get to talk about her anymore. No one else knows her now.”
Maggie’s chapters were harrowing and had the biggest impact of all the chapters.
The best thing about this book for me was that it mentioned several places I know and have been to and was set in my home county of Lincolnshire. It is very rare for me to come across a book set in Lincolnshire and even rarer to read one that mentions Lincoln.
Our Final Rating...
Read & Shared 42 Times.