Saturday, September 4, 2021

The Night She Disappeared

The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell
9/7/21; 416 pages
Atria Books

The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell is a very highly recommended suspenseful thriller.

Tallulah Murray, her partner, Zach, (both 19) and their infant son Noah are living with Tallulah's mother, Kim. Between caring for their son, Tallulah's class schedule, and Zach's job, the two have been busy and have had a hard year. One summer night the two ask Kim to watch Noah so they can have a date night at a local pub. Kim receives a text later saying they have been invited by a college friend of Tallulah's to a house party at her families country estate, Dark Place, and will be home later than expected. This is the last time anyone hears from Tallulah and Zach. It is proposed that the two simply ran away, but Kim knows that they were both too devoted to Noah to leave him. After a search and investigation, no trace of the two were found.

A year later Sophie Beck moves into a cottage near Dark Place with her partner, Shaun Gray. Shaun has just accepted the position of head teacher at a prestigious school and asked Sophie, a writer of cozy mysteries, to move there with him. As they are settling in, Sophie comes upon a piece of cardboard with hand lettered writing saying "Dig Here" with an arrow pointing down. When she does just that, Sophie discovers a box with what appears to be an engagement ring inside. After learning about the mysterious disappearance of the two teens the year before, Sophie thinks this is tied into the case and she begins to investigate.

The plot unfolds through the narratives in three timelines: Kim's point-of-view starting in 2017; Sophie's starting in 2018; and Tallulah's in 2016. The three don't coalesce until the end and serve to keep the intrigue and tension building throughout the story. There are secrets and events from the past that are unknown until Tallulah's story begins to incrementally reveal them. This plot structure using the three narrative threads works extremely well in The Night She Disappeared and each new revelation adds a new complexity to the plot. This is a novel that you may try to predict what is happening, but you will be surprised with yet another twist. It is a perfectly presented accomplished work of suspense that will hold your attention from start to finish.

The characters are all wonderfully realized and developed with individual personalities. Tallulah is depicted believably as a teenage mother, doing her best. Kim and Sophie are presented as realistic characters - women you could know. The supporting characters also are believable and feel like distinctive characters. The development of the characters and the clever plot structure helps propel The Night She Disappeared to one of the best.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

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