Missing Values, a Highly Original Crime Thriller by Michael Grigsby

The Bottom Line: A grisly, highly original crime thriller in which an unlikely hero wields data science to solve his son’s disappearance. 

Missing Values follows a cross-country crime spree by sibling serial killers Mabel and Kane. While murder is clearly their passion, human trafficking and drugs are their path to earning freedom from a despot named King Carlos. As the siblings are about to leave Texas for Florida, they decide to slaughter their moving men – an act they clearly relish. However, Mabel elects to spare the life of young PJ, a teenage boy who she thinks King Carlos will appreciate. 

Meanwhile, PJ’s father, Patrick Grey, is immediately disillusioned with police efforts to solve his son’s disappearance. Rather than launch a search, police investigators quickly conclude that PJ should already be presumed dead, determining that in all likelihood, this was a gang-related hit. Patrick soon realizes that he is PJ’s only remaining chance for survival. 

In the book’s opening chapters, author Michael Grigsby lays the foundation for Patrick’s role as an amateur sleuth by establishing him as a data analyst with a PhD in Marketing Science. In the opening pages, he performs technical heroics that save a colleague’s job – only to be hit with a backhanded, racist compliment (Patrick is black, while his co-workers are white). Patrick’s coworker won’t be the only character obsessed with racial identity. In the first scene with Mabel and Kane, one of the soon-to-be-murdered movers remarks, “So nice to see White people, young love, startin’ a family, more of ya’ll breedin’ throughout the whole damn earth.” Later, Mabel wants PJ not because he’s a teenager, but because he’s a “beautiful Black teenager.” Later, a woman’s interest in Origami is questioned due to her Chinese heritage, and a white supremacist regrets his potential execution at the hands of a “wetback.” The aggregated effect of seeing life through the lens of race, while not subtle, effectively compliments King Carlos’ worldview that humans are valued by their physical contributions alone. Mabel was sexualized early in life and remains King Carlos’ favorite partner, while Kane is valued only for his physical strength. Interestingly, when it comes to criminal appetites, Mabel attempts to draw the line when it comes to organ harvesting, only to be put in her place by King Carlos, who possesses an almost vampiric bloodlust.

In a world where there is no comfort – only carnal appetites, endless servitude and suffering – Patrick’s intellect has the potential to offer salvation. Missing Values deals with extremely dark subject matter throughout, including sexual abuse, racism, execution-style killings, grief, abduction and prostitution. But those who read it cover-to-cover will be rewarded. Everyone talks about their desire to make “data-driven” decisions, but Grigsby’s use of it within the context of this hardscrabble crime novel is truly original. 

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