Mary Kubica Crafts Suspenseful and Enthralling Ride in “Local Woman Missing”

Natalie Hannah, Staff Writer

Written by Mary Kubica, “Local Woman Missing” is a suspenseful yet believable psychological thriller that kept me turning the pages late into the night. Its twists and turns kept me captivated as I read, making it hard to put down with its intriguing story and gripping plot. 

In a phone interview, Kubica discussed her process while writing “Local Woman Missing.” Kubica summarized the book as “a story about the disappearance of two women and a young girl from the same suburban neighborhood, which makes us question how well we know those living closest to us.” The novel follows the lives of the neighborhood residents before and after the disappearance of doula Meredith Dickey and her six-year-old daughter Delilah, as well as fellow resident Shelby Tebow. 

Written in 2021, “Local Woman Missing” is Kubica’s eighth book. It was a New York Times bestseller and received high praise from both the Chicago Tribune and the L.A. Times. 

One of the things I liked the most about the novel was its setting. The town was heavily based on Naperville and the Chicago suburbs in general, with similar styles of homes and a college close to where the main characters live.

 In the book, Kubica mentions a riverwalk and a college close to where the characters live. Kubica put a lot of effort into forming the world around the characters, going so far as to pick specific buildings in Naperville she wanted to add to the story. I felt this made the book feel more realistic, as St. Charles is fairly similar to Naperville. It caused a sense of familiarity, with recognizable scenery making the plot even more chilling, to imagine that such events could take place in a city so similar to our own. 

In fact, the setting formed a starting point for Kubica when creating the book. After making the characters based on the setting she created, she wrote each character’s point of view separately, allowing her to develop the plot as she went along.

 However, the storyline also created one of Kubica’s main struggles while writing the novel. 

“The hardest part was deciding what plot to write, but once I did and once I decided which characters would narrate the story, the rest came relatively easy,” said Kubica. 

Another thing that made “Local Woman Missing” such an interesting story was the twists and turns. It was captivating to watch the story unfold and develop; you learn people’s secrets along with the characters, adding more and more to your understanding of the mystery as a whole. The book starts after the disappearances, describing Delilah, who we learn was kidnapped, escaping from the house where she was being held. Then, throughout the book, the perspective shifts between three different characters and two different time periods, one before Meredith and Delilah go missing, and the other after Delilah reappears. This hopping between perspectives creates a sense of putting together the pieces of an increasingly complex puzzle as you gain tidbits of information through the character’s actions.

“Local Woman Missing” jumps between the perspectives of different characters (Logan Harrison).

 However, this brings me to my only critique of the book. Especially in the beginning, I had trouble with the constant changes in narrator and time period. Both of these factors change every chapter, which caused some confusion when reading. Often times I had to ask myself, “wait, who is this guy again?” or stop for a second before I realize, “oh, we’re back to the present.” While I think the changes in narrator are good in the context of the story, I did find it somewhat jarring at first to be constantly shifting between different characters and storylines as we learn what led up to the disappearances and what happened in the aftermath, though I did get used to it in time. 

I do like the changes in perspective, though, through a story development lens. I think it adds to the sense of neighborhood gossip that is present throughout the whole book, adding even more to the feeling of familiarity I felt as I read. 

Overall, “Local Woman Missing” was a highly enjoyable read that has become one of my favorite books. Even with my initial confusion with the shifting narrators, I am giving “Local Woman Missing” 5 stars. 

Its suspense and intriguing ending, complete with a twist described by Kubica as, “surprising, but believable,” “Local Woman Missing” provided a great experience from start to finish, despite some minor bumps. 

I would highly recommend checking out the book, and it is available in the LRC for checkout. It will definitely lead you on a suspenseful and enthralling ride as you witness the characters find out just what did happen to Meredith and her daughter, and other secrets about their fellow residents. As Kubica sums up the book in one word? “Unexpected.”