Charlie, Presumed Dead

by Anne Heltzel

Reviewed by SA

This book was really nothing like I expected. I went into it expecting a bit of a friendship romp, a world tour with maybe some adventurous aspects, maybe a bit of a mystery: I came out of it shivering, terrified, my heart pounding and my hands trembling. Fair warning: this is much more than just a novel. It will psychologically leave you paranoid and feel like a dagger to your gut, letting you die slowly. And craving more, of course!


When his Cessna breaks apart and explodes over the north sea, the only thing left is a bloody jacket. The pilot, Charlie Price, is presumed dead. His funeral in paris is a small affair, attended only by close family, friends, and his two girlfriends. Neither know of the other’s existence until now: Lena Whitney, a rich, smart blonde who had been dating him three years, and Aubrey Boroughs, an artist who just graduated high school, who has known him, and dated him long distance, for a year, both realize that Charlie had been lying to them… and probably about a lot more than just the other’s existence. There is a whole lot they don’t know about Charlie Price, and it’s time they get some closure and answers. Together they must take a mind-bending trip across the planet: first in London—then in Mumbai, Kerala, and Bangkok, the girls go in search of Charlie. Is he still alive? What did their love for him even mean? And what secrets are they both concealing from each other?

While written very similarly, Aubrey and Lena have very distinct personalities. I liked their interactions, and the bond that began to form through the novel. Understanding what kind of person they are, and if they can trust the other, is a huge struggle for them, but it leads to immense personal growth (at least for one of them) which is surely needed after being dragged along by a man like Charlie. Though I didn’t personally like either of them, I didn’t mind much in this novel, because I was more interested in their path to understanding.

Who even is this Charlie, anyways? The man is slowly revealed through the women’s stories, but also through short tidbits from his mind, short flashbacks the other lets us glimpse. As this is what really impressed me the most in this novel: how much this Charlie can surprise you. He’s one man with one woman, another with the other, and he has some serious, serious problems. Now this blog is spoiler free, that is a promise, so I won’t let you know what we discover about Charlie: but the slow buildup is intriguing, and incredibly disturbing.

It was exciting to see the world through the lens of these two traveling women! Paris is brought to life in front of your eyes – and I could quickly determine that the author was reliable in her descriptions, seeing as how I’m partially french – and then we move down to India, to Thailand… you’re not doing to tourist destinations! It was gorgeous and exciting. You see a side of the world not many get to see, led by Lena, a world traveler, and accompanied by Aubrey, who experiences things for the first time, like us.

The secrets part I was annoyed about. The characters kept saying to themselves “I can’t the other know… my secret” and it felt a little weird, a little uncomfortable. When Aubrey’s secret was revealed, however, I was a little disappointed: It was a bit of a let down. Many things that were pumped up in the book let me down a little when revealed.

In the same way, some of the things seemed a little too easy, too coincidental (though I realize now this has something to do with the ending).  When the girls moved easily from one place to the next, it made some parts of the novel feel a little dull, honestly. But hang in there! The ending itself is a roller coaster, and it really destroyed me on the inside. We neeeeeeeeed a sequel! The way the book slowly warped from girl trip, to girls bonding, to HOLY HECK PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER, was actually pretty masterful. And so incredibly disturbing.

This book was nothing as expected… it will blow your mind.

Check out Charlie, Presumed Dead on Goodreads and Amazon.

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