THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED by Lisa Jewell (Century, July 2021)
Popular British author Lisa Jewell skirts around the edges of domestic suspense and murder mystery in her latest book, The Night She Disappeared.
In June 2017 teenage mum Tallulah Murray goes missing, along with the father of her child, Zach, following a date night at a local pub and a spontaneous pool party at a friend’s home. Tallulah’s mother is distraught and certain that something has happened to her daughter, but the police are less convinced. They conduct a search of the woods near where the party occurred, but find no evidence of foul play A year later and there is still no sign of the couple, when cozy mystery author Sophie Beck moves into the area. She is accompanying her boyfriend, who has landed the job as head teacher at the boarding school that Tallulah used to attend. Their new home is a cottage on the edge of woods where the teenage couple went missing. Sophie has only been there a short while when she sees a note stapled to a fencepost on the boundary of the woods, with the words DIG HERE on it and an arrow pointing to the ground. When Sophie digs she uncovers something that throws fresh light on the night that Tallulah and Zach disappeared.
This is a tightly structured novel with dual timelines and shifting point of views, that steadily draws the reader into what happened to Tallulah and Zach. The opening chapters are slow, but the tension steadily increases as the two timelines draw together. Jewell is a deft hand at laying false leads, and the story proceeds down some unexpected paths before the final reveal.
The sections set in 2018 involving Sophie’s attempts to work out what happened the night of the disappearance held more interest for me, but the 2017 timeline involving Tallulah and her obsessive relationship with the enigmatic Scarlett will entertain those who enjoy domestic noir.
Overall, the story unfolds smoothly and, although some patience is required, it builds to a clever and surprising conclusion. I had anticipated some of the twists, but Lisa weaves several good red herrings into her plot and the final denouement took me by surprise.
A solid mystery that will particularly appeal to readers who enjoy domestic suspense thrillers and a lot of teenage angst.
The Night She Disappeared is released in Australia and the United Kingdom on 20 July 2021 and 22 July 2021 respectively.
Thanks to Penguin Random House Australia for an advanced copy of the book.
Lisa Jewell will also be appearing in an online event on 21 July 2021, as part of the Bad Sydney Crime Writer’s Festival : https://www.badsydney.com/what-happened-on-the-night-she-disappeared/