Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas @Dougieclaire @PenguinUKBooks #review

Today I am delighted to share my thoughts on Then She Vanishes, a chilling new thriller from Claire Douglas which is released in e-book tomorrow. Before I share my thoughts, here is what the book is all about:

Source: Netgalley

About the Book

Everything changed the night Flora Powell disappeared.

Heather and Jess were best friends – until the night Heather’s sister vanished.

Jess has never forgiven herself for the lie she told that night. Nor has Heather.

But now Heather is accused of an awful crime.

And Jess is forced to return to the sleepy seaside town where they grew up, to ask the question she’s avoided for so long:

What really happened the night Flora disappeared?

Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones (preorder) | Google Play | Apple Books

My Thoughts

This is the first book I have read by Claire Douglas, but it most definitely won’t be the last. From the very opening chapter I was hooked, desperate to know what could drive someone to such a desperate and, ultimately, deadly act. It just seems, well, crazy. But was what happened the act of a mad-woman or was there far more rational thought behind the act than you may understand?

This is the story of two friends, Jessica and Heather. When Heather’s sister, Flora, disappears, their friendship, and their world, is torn apart. Nothing, it seems could bring them back together. That is until Heather commits an unthinkable act which forces Jessica, now a reporter in Bristol, to return to their home town to discover the truth behind what happened. What would turn a girl, so kind and thoughtful, into the kind of person that the police and the press, think she has become?

What I loved about this book is the way in which the author manages to create that real sense of kinship between Heather and Jessica, even though, technically, at least in the present day, it is nearly two thirds of the way through the book before the two friends are reunited. You get a real flavour for the friendship, for the close bond between the two girls, from the way Jessica’s memories are presented, and more from the scenes which flashback to their childhood which intersect the chapters at various points throughout the book. They are not overwhelming in number, but those short scenes take the reader back to that fateful summer where everything changed, and gradually allow the reader to build up a picture of what really happened.

The story is told predominantly from the points of view of Jessica and Margot, Heather and Flora’s mum, who Jessica knew as a child, and who Jessica has a hard job convincing that she is only there to help and not to gain some journalistic scoop. Don’t get me wrong, that is why Jessica is first sent to Tilby and it is her job. But you really do get to see the softer, more compassionate side of Jessica when she is back on home turf, no matter how tough an exterior she likes to show to the world. I did grow to like Jessica, Margot too and wanted them both to find their peace, and the truth, whatever that might be.

The story is quite tense at times, and with the central theme being not only the crime Heather stands accused of but the disappearance of Flora all those years earlier, there are some dark themes that lurk around the periphery. And it is the periphery as nothing is dealt with in a gratuitous way, but you do get a keen enough sense of what has happened that it will leave you both shocked and saddened by what comes to pass. There are a lot of secrets being kept, and half truths being spoken, and it is hard at times to see which of the characters is being honest. Certainly it appeared that every one had a reason to want to avoid the whole truth, but the only person without a clear reason for what they did, or were accused of, was Heather.

The characterisations in the book were fab and I could feel the inner turmoil of the characters, particularly for Jessica, between what was right morally and what was right for their heart. Those struggles made them very human. Even Adam, Heather’s husband, as brusque and angry as he appears, was still relatable and I felt for him as much as I did Margot at times. The pacing was perfect, the truth being drip fed in a just regular enough intervals to keep me on the hook and still leaving me desperate for more. Full of suspense, mystery and intrigue, I raced through this in less than a day which for me, this year, is impressive.

If you like a slow burning, mystery laden thriller that is full of emotion then I’d definitely recommend this book. You won’t be disappointed.

About the Author

Claire Douglas has worked as a journalist for fifteen years writing features for women’s magazines and national newspapers, but she’s dreamed of being a novelist since the age of seven. She finally got her wish after winning the Marie Claire Debut Novel Award, with her first novel, The Sisters, which was followed by Local Girl Missing, Last Seen Alive and Do Not Disturb, all Sunday Times bestsellers. She lives in Bath with her husband and two children.

Author Links: Twitter