Desert Isle Keeper
Then She Was Gone
I discovered Lisa Jewell’s books in the spring of 2017, and was instantly hooked. She writes psychological thrillers that may seem pretty similar to a bunch of others out there, but are quite complex if you look beneath the surface. Then She Was Gone, her latest novel, is a perfect example of all the things Ms. Jewell does right, and I found myself captivated from start to finish.
It’s been ten years since Laurel’s teenaged daughter Ellie disappeared. The case has pretty much gone cold, and Laurel’s ex-husband and remaining two children have managed to move on with their lives. Only Laurel seems stuck in limbo, unable to give up hope of one day being reunited with Ellie.
One afternoon, Laurel is having coffee at a nearby cafe when she is approached by a handsome stranger named Floyd. He strikes up a conversation with her, and Laurel gets the distinct impression he’s flirting with her. At first, she’s a little put off by his attentions, but she warms up to him pretty quickly and begins to consider what it might be like to attempt to make a new life for herself, a life that is separate from Ellie’s disappearance. There’s something about Floyd that forces her to entertain the possibility of moving on, even though the process might be painful.
As days pass, Laurel and Floyd begin spending more and more time together, and before very long, Floyd offers to introduce her to his nine-year-old daughter Poppy. It turns out that Poppy bears an uncanny resemblance to Ellie at age nine, and Laurel is understandably shocked by her appearance. Suddenly, all her plans to move on are pushed aside as Laurel becomes once again obsessed with finding her missing daughter.
There have been a lot of books published lately about missing children, but Ms. Jewell manages to revamp this familiar story. Then She Was Gone is twisty and atmospheric, with a healthy dose of nail-biting suspense that kept me glued to my iPad long after I should have gone to bed. I’ll admit to having a pretty good idea how certain plot elements would turn out, but in the end, I wasn’t completely correct about much of anything.
Most of the story is told from Laurel’s point of view, but we also go back to the days leading up to Ellie’s disappearance and Ms. Jewell does a stellar job introducing us to the missing teenager without telling us exactly what happened to her. A couple of other characters tell us their sides of the story as well, but I can’t tell you who they are without giving away some key plot points. I really love a book that is told from multiple points of view, so I was glad the author chose to tell this particular story that way.
I sometimes get fed up with characters in thrillers doing incredibly stupid things just to move the plot along. Fortunately, Laurel is a completely relatable heroine who doesn’t fall into this particular trap. She does some things that I wouldn’t advise someone to try in real life, but she didn’t needlessly put her life in danger, and I really did enjoy spending time with a heroine who was pretty level-headed most of the time. She has her faults, of course, but she didn’t make me want to pull my hair out in frustration the way some characters have.
Parts of the novel were a little disturbing, but Ms. Jewell doesn’t go overboard with violence. The stuff you’ll read about here isn’t all that different from scenes you’ve read before in other mysteries or thrillers. We are definitely treated to an in depth look at an extremely disturbed individual, but I tend to enjoy that sort of thing. I love learning what makes people do the terrible things they do, and I find fiction to be a good way to explore humanity’s darker side.
Then She Was Gone is likely to appeal to devoted fans of the author’s work as well as to those who are picking up one of her books for the first time. Her backlist is pretty great too, so definitely check it out once you’ve finished this one. It’s a decision I doubt you’ll regret.