If you’re a big reader, you’re likely familiar with the name Lisa Jewell. Hell, that’s probably true of most people who browse bookstores and libraries, or happen to have even a passing interest in fiction and, more specifically, thrillers. She’s very big within that genre, and is seemingly one of the most popular writers going, at least by all impressions. Like the big guys, she publishes annually, has a big following, gets pretty good reviews and is a definite staple.
When I first got back into reading, Then She Was Gone was one of the biggest newer releases, and it piqued my interest almost immediately. That novel ended up being a very good read, and is something I still remember fondly. Although I’ve read over 150 books since, it’s stuck with me and exists as one of the best. The story hooked me, the writing was good, and it stood out amongst a sea of thrillers.
Fast forward to this fall and we have a new Lisa Jewell book to discuss. Described as being her ‘quarantine novel,’ it’s another mystery with dark and chilling elements, and it goes by the name of The Night She Disappeared. I was provided with an early copy of the story, and now that I’ve finished reading it, I’d like to share my thoughts.
The Night She Disappeared is set in a small, but quaint British village, which just so happens to house a popular pub and a boarding school that targets slackers and problem children. It’s this high school — Maypole House — where a lot of the narrative is centred, although not all of the involved teens go to that particular scholarly institute. The main character and her friend actually go to a college in another town, but that’s not terribly important right now.
Things centre upon a young adult named Tallulah Murray, her infant son Noah, her boyfriend Zach and her thirty-nine year-old mom Kim. These are the true main players in what is a rather large cast, and within a book that is told from multiple viewpoints, including Tallulah’s, Kim’s and those of three other characters: an enthralling rich girl named Scarlett Jacques, her ex-boyfriend and play thing Liam, and a newcomer named Sophie, whose boyfriend has taken on the role of Head Teacher at Maypole House.
These fictional folks are all brought together by different factors, with none being stronger than circumstance.
In 2017, 19 year-old Tallulah and her boyfriend, Zach, go out to the pub for a special date night. Afterwards, they apparently attend a party at Scarlett Jacques’ posh house, which is infamously known as Dark Place because of its storied history, mismatched additions and ties to the British Civil War. It’s at that point where they seemingly fell off the proverbial map and completely disappeared, never to be heard from again.
The Jacques family denies knowing the whereabouts of the young parents, police haven’t been able to discover what happened, and Kim is struggling with not knowing. After all, she’s not only the mother of the missing woman, but is now solely responsible for raising her troublesome son. Zach also happened to live with them, so there’s that too.
In familiar thriller and mystery fashion, The Night She Disappeared jumps around between at least two different years, those being 2017 and 2018. It’s during the latter — one year post disappearance — that Sophie and her boyfriend come to live in the cottage behind Maypole House, and Sophie — a non-violent detective novel author — discovers something strange, which gets her interested in the case.
Lisa Jewell is great at writing deep and interesting characters, some of whom end up being very likeable, or the exact opposite. This continues here, in what ended up being a pretty enthralling read that I powered through in a short period of time. I especially liked the character of Kim, who I felt for and wanted good things to happen to.
Thanks to an incredibly interesting premise, good writing and depth, this is also a very immersive read. It’s not something you’ll soon forget, either, which is nice. That said, I would still say that Then She Was Gone is the best Lisa Jewell product I’ve ever read. Watching You would probably come in third, while The Family Upstairs would likely be in last. They’re both pretty close, though.
This isn’t a perfect story, though, nor should anyone expect that from any book, I guess. As good as it is, there’s at least one coincidence/realization involving Sophie that is too easy and almost laughable. The ending also isn’t the most original thing in the world, although certain elements of it were still somewhat unique.
Those two things kept The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell from being fantastic, and cementing itself as my personal favourite. Plus, Then She Was Gone was simply great. I’m very glad that I requested this one, though, and find it incredibly easy to recommend to anyone interested in the author and these genres. You won’t be disappointed.
This review is based on a copy of the book that we were provided with. Receiving a free copy did not sway our opinion.