Toby Channing, a young psychologist, is on a mission. His girlfriend Anna has gone missing. The problem is that he was the last person to see her alive and so her family (along with others) suspect him of murdering her. Did he or didn’t he?
In an attempt to find her, he uses his camping van and poses as a private investigator specializing in missing persons. As he tours around the many different areas he has gone with Anna, a slew of different characters approach him with their own cases of missing persons (one being even a robot). As Toby solves these cases his search for Anna intensifies.
Janet Gogerty takes us into Toby’s head – his fears, his loneliness, his unpleasant relationship with Anna’s parents – especially her father who wants nothing to do with Toby as he suspects him of murdering his daughter, his relationship with his parents (rather warm) and his pregnant sister. The novel is a mixture of domestic gambol and a complex solving of finding Anna, the love of his life. It is a mystery full of suspense, romance and a study of ordinary people desiring to live a more satisfying life.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like being a private detective, Janet Gogerty’s Toby Channing the Camper Van Detective, through his various cases, illustrates that the job is not all about solving murder cases. In fact, not all missing cases, as is pointed out in this novel, are about crime. But Anna’s case is.
I think my father would have liked me to date guys like my physics teacher, Mr. Murphy. Mr. Murphy was tall, like my father and had light colored hair. He didn’t wear glasses and he even though his teeth were a bit buck he smiled a lot. Mr. Murphy was the kind of high school teacher you see in the movies. A sort of To Sir with Love kind of teacher. Only white. He was the only one of our teachers who would come outside with us at recess and we would swarm around him. I can’t remember what he talked about only that he made us laugh a lot. He always seemed so happy and you could tell that he loved physics.
My boyfriend, David took private physics lessons from Mr. Murphy. Because I was from this generation who venerated mathematical abilities and I was among its ranks I judged David’s lack of mathematical talent and interpreted it as his not being smart enough. Never mind that years later he became a multi-millionaire from running his own business. But how was my narrow mind capable of foretelling that? And that wasn’t the only obstacle in my relationship with him. That he came from a family of lawyers and that his father was a judge didn’t help. My father’s dislike of lawyers was not only in the soft way people might make jokes about lawyers being so materialistic and callous but whenever he spoke about lawyers his teeth would clench up, his Polish complexion redden more than it already was and his body would become crisp. I never knew what had made him hate lawyers so except that to him they were a bunch of crooks and my liking David felt somewhat like a betrayal towards my father.