Full disclosure: I’m friendly with Sami Shah. I first interviewed him for X-Press Magazine back in the day when he was a recent immigrant doing his visa-mandated time in Northam, a tiny Western Australian country town, and building up his rep as a blisteringly funny stand-up comedian. Stand-up is only one of the strings on his bow or arrows in his quiver, depending on your preferred archery metaphor, and what’s always impressed me about Sami (and made me a little jealous, tbh) is he seems to be successful at any creative field of endeavour he turns his hand to: TV, novels, journalism, documentary, you name it (And if you won’t take my word for it, take Wikipedia’s). So, when he slid into my DMs asking me to take a crack at his latest effort, the eight-part Audible drama The Missed, directed by Josh Hogan, I jumped at the chance. And then wrote nothing about it for months because I’m a starving freelancer always on the brink of financial calamity, and those listicles weren’t gonna write themselves. Sorry, Sami.

Which doesn’t mean I didn’t dig it. In point of fact, I dug it a lot. The Missed is a kind of Outback Noir in the mode of The Dry (which was great) and Savage River (which wasn’t), but clearly influenced by Sami’s experiences in Northam.

We set our scene in the fictional town of Nunich, and we frame it with a series of interviews conducted by Ruth Trozer (Kate Hall), an Immigration and Border Protection agent. A Pakistani couple, Anushey (Pallavi Sharda) and Shahab (Jared Herft) Syed have been settled in Nunich, and the pair have integrated into the small community as well as they can, opening a restaurant (called The Delhi Diner, as Indian cuisine will find a more appreciative clientele than Pakistani) and adopting Westernised names.

But their new life is upended when their daughter, Laila (Isabel Jith) is kidnaped, and the subsequent investigation will uncover many of the sleepy hamlet’s most closely guarded secrets and prejudices, as that’s what these sort of stories do. I’m a sucker for this narrative model; I grew up in a town much like the fictional Nunich (and the real Northam), and my teenage years spent on a cultural diet of Stephen King books and Twin Peaks sealed the deal – I love the whole “evil lurking behind white picket fences” thing.

And so does Sami. He offers up a well-considered ensemble cast of outwardly-respectable, inwardly-desperate characters, including ambitious journalist Rachel Quatermaine (Della Rae Morrison), compromised mayor Belinda Niles (Summer Williams), city detective Michael Cross (Igor Sas) bringing some of that world-weary hard-boiled flavour, and more. But what resonates is how well he integrates the immigrant experience into the narrative, something that the recent series Savage River struggled with.

Sami has an understandably keen eye for telling details, and what fascinated me the most about The Missed is way he weaves in all these little elements that speak so much about what it’s like to be a person of colour from a culturally Islamic background trying to get along in small town Australia: the compromises, the white lies, the code-switching, the casual racism from even the most well-meaning whites. This is what sets The Missed apart; I genuinely believe nobody else could have written this.

I’ll admit I occasionally resisted some of the formal elements inherent in the audio drama form; bring a film head I naturally respond to information that is communicated visually, and the way certain things are transmitted to the listener aurally grated a touch, but that’s simply me getting me head around a relatively unfamiliar medium. Performances are solid to great across the board, with Pallavi Sharda, who was so fantastic in the recent The Twelve, doing some incredible emotional work in a demanding central role.

The Missed is currently free with an Audible subscription. We’re definitely in the middle of an Outback Noir upsurge, following successes like The Dry and the ongoing Mystery Road franchise. This is definitely an upper echelon entry into the subgenre, and a fresh take on the form to boot.

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