Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Review published on September 15, 2017.

Regarded by everyone, but particularly by her mother, as a happy, well-adjusted “golden-girl”, Ellie Mack was just fifteen when she disappeared. Extensive searches revealed no sign of her and the generally accepted view became that she had run away because she was feeling stressed about her upcoming GCSE exams. However, her mother, Laurel, is unable to accept this and, to the detriment of her relationships with her husband and two surviving children, she never gives up hope of finding Ellie alive. Ten years later her marriage has failed, she isn’t close to her grown-up son and daughter and she is living alone. However, a life-changing event enables her to start to move on and she meets the charismatic Floyd and feels able to make an emotional investment in their developing relationship. He is a single parent to his nine-year-old daughter Poppy, a precociously bright child who is home-schooled by him. When Laurel first meets Poppy she is struck by how much she is like Ellie was at the same age and a bond quickly forms between them. However, before too long Laurel begins to feel an increasing sense of disquiet about Floyd’s past, particularly his relationship with Poppy’s mother. She starts to wonder how far she can trust either him or her new-found happiness.

This story is told mainly through the eyes of Ellie and Laurel but, as it progresses, other character’s voices are heard. It is through this device, which I thought was very well executed, that the truth behind Ellie’s disappearance is gradually told. The story was full of suspense and many twists and turns and although at a very early stage in the book I had guessed what had happened to Ellie, and the consequent links with the present, there were a couple of developments which did come as a surprise and influenced my decision to give this four stars. There were some very moving moments during the story-telling and, towards the end, I was moved to tears by one of the unexpected twists in the story.

This is psychological thriller’s major strength lies in its well-developed and credible characters rather than on lots of action-packed scenarios and there wasn’t one character which felt superfluous to the plot. They were so well-drawn that there were times when I felt some sympathy for even the more disagreeable ones! The author’s writing style is taut and focused and engaged my attention throughout so I would certainly be tempted read one of her previous books.

Linda Hepworth 4/3

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
Century 9781780896410 hbk Jul 2017

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