Today I’m sharing my thoughts on the latest novel by Lisa Jewell, The Night She Disappeared. I’ve been quite late in discovering the author’s books but have. enjoyed the ones I’ve read so far and have been really looking forward to this latest offering. My thanks to publisher Century for providing an advance copy for review. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
“Mum, there’s some people here from college, they asked me back to theirs. Just for an hour or so. Is that OK?”
Midsummer 2017: teenage mum Tallulah heads out on a date, leaving her baby son at home with her mother, Kim.
At 11pm she sends her mum a text message. At 4.30am Kim awakens to discover that Tallulah has not come home.
Friends tell her that Tallulah was last seen heading to a pool party at a house in the woods nearby called Dark Place.
Tallulah never returns.
2018: walking in the woods behind the boarding school where her boyfriend has just started as a head-teacher, Sophie sees a sign nailed to a fence.
A sign that says: DIG HERE . . .
A cold case. An abandoned mansion. A family hiding a terrible secret.
Prepare to be hooked. Lisa Jewell’s latest thriller is her best yet.
Well this is a story laden with mystery and intrigue. From the very beginning you can sense that something bad is about to happen. And happen it does, in the most unassuming and yet life changing way when young parents, Tallulah and Zach, head out for the evening but never come home. Now that in itself is bad enough, especially as it is made clear what a devoted mother Tallulah is, but when you add in thr truly ominous prologue … Yep. Interest well and truly piqued.
The story is effectively split between that fateful night and, eventually, the events leading up to it, and the present day, twelve months on from the pair’s disappearance when Sophie Beck moves into a cottage on the grounds of the exclusive school where her partner, Sean, is the new Head Teacher. So far, so disconnected, other than the school is in the town that Tallulah disappeared from, and the fact that the woods behind Sophie’s new home were once the focus of a mass search for the two missing teenagers. Well, that and the strange note that Sophie finds pinned to her back fence and the strange discovery she makes when she follows it’s instructions.
The story is packed with mystery, more of a slow building tension and alerting of avid crime readers spidey-senses, than an overly obvious attempt to shock readers. There is always big question mark hanging over the disappearance of the pair, and whilst Zach’s parents seem relatively indifferent about him going missing, Tallulah’s mum, Kim, knows that she would never leave voluntarily. Added to this you have a cast of characters who all feel … I don’t know. Wrong? I never quite settled with any of them, never trusted their narrative, their reticence in sharing the truth of what happened the night in question. Here is where Lisa Jewell has pulled a blinder, making sure that each one feels both genuine and unreliable at the same time, with the exception of a small handful who I would not trust as far as I could throw them. And in a story where character motivation and behaviour is key, it really does make the narrative all that more suspenseful.
I really did grow to like the character of Sophie, a cosy crime author who seems to be channeling one of her own Detectives in trying to find out what happened that night. Her enthusiasm, and talent for procrastination, was infectious (and I never need to be encouraged to procrastinate), but her curiosity breathes new life into the cold case and brings new hope for Kim. I was very happy to spend time in her company, often frustrated by the way she kept things to herself, but ultimately very satisfied by the way her element of the story played out.
This is a far more complex story than my review might suggest, but I’m mindful of dropping spoilers. It’s a story of family, obsession, control, deception and privilege. It has an air of cosy-ish mystery about it in the amateur sleuth kind of way that Sophie goes about finding out what really happened, but also a dark heart, one where certain people are willing to do anything to protect their name, no matter the consequences. One thing is for sure, although the where and why of that fateful night become clear to the reader not long after the halfway point, the ending will definitely take you by surprise and probably leave you reeling. I didn’t expect it, that’s for sure.
Another excellent psychological thriller from an author who is very adept at catching readers unaware.
About the Author
Lisa Jewell is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of nineteen novels, including The Family Upstairs and Then She Was Gone, as well as Invisible Girl and Watching You. Her novels have sold over 5 million copies internationally, and her work has also been translated into twenty-nine languages.