And Now She's Gone
Gina Carey once said, “A strong woman looks a challenge in the eye and gives it a wink.” And Now She’s Gone is a story about the many different kinds of adversity and adversaries women face in their lives and how learning to leave the battlefield bloody and bruised but victorious is the most important skill we can ever acquire.
Gray (Grayson) Sykes has just been promoted to investigator at Radar Consulting and is excited to tackle her first missing persons case. Isabel Lincoln has disappeared, vanished seemingly without a trace. Her boyfriend Ian, a rich cardiologist, initially thought this was just Isabel being Isabel – she has been known to take spontaneous trips before, going away for days and upon returning offering the excuse that she just needed to be alone. But this time she’s been gone months, not days and she took Ian’s beloved dog Kenny G with her. He’s hired Gray because he wants Isabel found, wants photographic proof that she’s alive and okay and most of all, he wants his dog back.
Gray begins her hunt for the missing Isabel by interviewing that lady’s co-workers and receives some disturbing information – the kindly doctor may not be the wonderful man he claims to be. One of the women says Ian had been physically abusive throughout the relationship and has probably killed Isabel. Another tells Gray, “She did what she had to do, cuz that’s us women. Doing what we gotta do to survive. And sometimes? That ain’t nice. Sometimes, that ain’t easy. But we get to be above ground for one more day.”
Concerned, Gray changes the focus of her search to include the possibility that the man who hired her to find Isabel might actually want her to muddy a future criminal investigation. But there is no evidence of foul play at Isabel’s condo and a neighbor saw Isabel happily getting into a black truck with a suitcase. Everything seems to point to a woman who willingly took off. Yet Isabel’s home is filled with all manner of personal memorabilia, the types of things people always take with them when relocating. Her car is still in the driveway. Her breakfast dishes are still in the sink. There may be no signs of a struggle, Isabel might have entered that truck with a packed bag and cheerful countenance but had she truly intended to stay away this long?
When she’s through examining the condo, Gray begins texting the list of Isabel’s friends Ian gave her. Few of them answer, but she makes appointments to speak to the ones who do. And then she receives a strange message from an unknown number, one she definitely didn’t reach out to: “Please let me be missing.” A few frustrating exchanges later and she knows she’s dealing with the missing Isabel. So why won’t the woman just give Gray the dog, a picture proving she’s okay and let both of them get back to their lives?
Gray is the perfect person to handle Isabel’s case because no one could understand better about the need to start over. She had once been Mrs. Natalie Dixon, the beautiful society wife of a rich, successful man. A man who began beating her by their first anniversary and who left her with a battered body, broken heart and scarred face. She knows she needs to handle this search with all the finesse she can muster because while she may have a legal obligation to the doctor, she has a moral obligation to Isabel. If the woman is in danger, Gray needs to help her stay gone.
I loved that Gray wasn’t just sympathetic to Isabel’s plight but that she was careful, meticulous and thorough in her examination of the details surrounding the woman’s disappearance. It would have been so easy for her to make assumptions based on her own past experiences but she refuses to jump to conclusions and follows every miniscule clue until she’s gathered all the pieces of information she needs to come to the right denouement. The author did a great job of showing us what makes Gray a terrific sleuth and how her personality – a mix of compassion, cleverness, conscientiousness, and thoroughness – contributed to her vocational success. We live in a career oriented world and I absolutely love it when this aspect of a story is done right.
The mystery here has a lot of nice twists and turns. Until close to the end of the book we are unsure of what exactly is happening and what it all means. Almost everyone involved in the case is lying to Gray in some way, shape or form and watching her pick her way through all the prevarications to the truth is engrossing. The story is told very much in the fashion of a cat and mouse game, with Gray chasing a very elusive prey and I loved that I wasn’t sure of who was who and what was what until almost the end of the book.
The author does a nice job with the secondary characters, most of whom are witnesses, suspects or leads. It is by listening to their stories and learning their backgrounds that we are slowly able to piece together the solution to the mystery, and the author cleverly uses their personalities to help us form an image of the missing woman. It’s true that we can be known by the company we keep and Isabel had some very interesting people in her life.
We also explore Gray’s previous life as a socialite and her own ongoing struggle to stay hidden. The book shows how a smart woman with good friends could fall prey to a predator and how we can convince ourselves to stay in a bad situation by thinking tomorrow will be a better day even when it never, ever is.
There are hookups here as well as an underlying romance possibility but the book concentrates more on telling us Gray’s past and taking us through the case than in fully exploring the relationships. The narrative ends with an HFN which I thought was perfect for the story.
And Now She’s Gone had a bit of a slow start and a few rather unbelievable elements but it’s an intriguing mystery with an excellent kickass heroine. I would recommend it to any fan of female detective stories.