After years abroad, Joey returns to England with her husband Alfie. In lack of alternatives, they move in with her brother Jack and his pregnant wife. The neighbourhood is full of strange people, first of all this woman who seems to have mental issues and is convinced that people are following and watching her. Then Tom Fitzwilliam’s family, he a charming teacher who immediately starts to flirt with Joey, his wife, a somehow excessive runner who only seems to live for her husband and their teenage son who closely observes everything that is going on in their street. It is all but a peaceful suburb of Bristol, it is soon to become a crime scene – but who killed whom and for which reason?
Lisa Jewell opens her sixteenth novel actually with the crime scene. You know from the start that somebody has been murdered, but the victim’s identity isn’t given, only one clue to lead you in a certain direction and to keep your attention fixed on one character throughout the novel. I really liked that because the author so cleverly puts you on a track that – even if you are careful and know how crime novels sometimes play with you – you eagerly follow into the trap.
It is not easy to talk about the novel without revealing too much and spoiling the fun for other readers. I especially appreciated the wrong leads, the assumptions you have about what might have happened, who the murderer could be and the reasons for his deed, that all turn out to be completely wrong. The style of writing and the artfully dropped hints keep you read on excited to come to the end and see the full picture. Carefully orchestrated, a brilliant psychological crime novel that could hardly be surpassed.
Ellie just wants to go to the library to study for her GCSEs. But she never arrives there and is never seen again. Her mother Laurel is sure that her daughter is still alive, but where? Ten years pass by, the family splits up and Laurel is alone with her grief. When she meets Floyd, she experiences happiness for the first time in many years. Can this be true? Finding love at the age of 55? But why is the famous writer in love with her, this old, nondescript woman? When she meets Floyd’s daughter Poppy for the first time, a vile thought is planted in her head. Was their encounter really a coincidence? Who is that man in reality?
Lisa Jewell tells the story of the vanished girl from different perspectives at different points of time. Thus, the full picture is only revealed bit by bit throughout the story and the tension is constantly kept high. You never know whom you can really trust, what is true and what isn’t, you can guess, but at times, you might be completely wrong.
I especially liked the mystery about Floyd and his daughter. At the first glance, they appear to be a bit too perfect, too lovely and likeable to be real. Just because of this you become suspicious. Is Floyd the nice loving man or is he simply evil? What might happen to Laurel when she keeps on dating him? From the experience of reading thrillers you are convinced that sooner or later something really wicked will happen, you simply wait for it to happen all the time – of course you still hope that by some miracle the nice and decent woman is spared another nightmare in her life.
“Then she was gone” is not a too bloody thriller, but it is creepy due to the characters and you always teeter on a knife edge about what is going to happen next. So, Lisa Jewell successfully plays on the reader’s nerves – just what I would expect from a good thriller.