Sunday, April 22, 2018

Then She Was Gone

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
Atria Books: 4/17/18
eBook review copy; 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9781501154645

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell is a very highly recommended addictive novel of psychological suspense.

Ellie Mack was fifteen, the youngest of three, and her mother's favorite when she disappeared in 2005. There were never any clues and her case soon went cold. Laurel Mack's whole life seemed to crumble after her daughter Ellie disappeared. Her marriage with Paul ended and she became distant to her surviving children, Hanna and Jake. When a final piece of evidence was discovered ten years after her disappearance, Ellie is finally closed and Laurel is trying to put her life back together, even though she still feels she has no real answers as to what happened to Ellie.

When Laurel meets a charming man at a cafĂ©, author Floyd Dunn, she is surprised to find herself actually accepting a dinner invitation. As their relationship becomes more serious, Laurel meets Floyd's daughters and his youngest daughter, Poppy, takes her breath away because she so resembles Ellie. When Laurel learns that Floyd’s former partner vanished five years earlier after dumping Poppy with him, it brings back unanswered questions and memories of Ellie's disappearance. But when Laurel learns that Poppy's mother, Noelle Donnelly, was also Ellie's math tutor, it seems to be too coincidental.

Then She Was Gone is a wonderful example of how excellent writing and superb planning can elevate a psychological thriller to a perfect rating. Will most readers figure out what likely happened to Ellie very early on? Yes. Is the insight into the characters and the journey of discovery more important than this one big puzzle piece? Oh, yes! Many readers (and reviewers) of suspense novels can predict how a plot is going to go, sometimes very early on in the novel. Personally, I believe in this case Jewell acknowledges that truism and doesn't give a whit about it. In fact she uses this detail and guessing/knowing is only going to increase the suspense and deepen the mystery.

Part of the clever, skillful writing is found in the structure Jewell chose to present Then She Was Gone. The novel is told by several narrators and is split into three parts. The first part has chapters that alternate between the present day events and ten years ago at the time of Ellie's disappearance. The second section begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. The first two sections are primarily narrated by Laurel. The third section has several narrators and those voices are in different time periods, past and present. The structure keeps the pace quick. This, in turn, increases the tension and the psychological suspense, while simultaneously building an uneasy anxiety in the reader.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Atria Books via Netgalley

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