I received a copy of this book for free on NetGalley.
I have to admit (and this is not the first time I’ve done this), I have a kind of mental block about Claire Douglas. I keep mixing her up with Claire Mackintosh. I think this is the second time I’ve requested a Claire Douglas on NetGalley, thinking the book was by the author of I Let You Go. But thankfully, Claire Douglas is a similarly enjoyable author, so I’m not too cut up about it.
THE ONLY THING MORE SHOCKING THAN THE FIRST CHAPTER . . . IS THE LAST.
Everything changed the night Flora disappeared.
Heather and Jess were best friends – until the night Heather’s sister vanished.
Jess has never forgiven herself for the lie she told that night. Nor has Heather.
But now Heather is accused of an awful crime.
And Jess is forced to return to the sleepy seaside town where they grew up, to ask the question she’s avoided for so long:
What really happened the night Flora disappeared?
‘Amazing. A twisty whydunnit that I finished in just two days. Smart, gripping and atmospheric, readers will love Then She Vanishes’
Gillian McAllister, bestselling author of Everything But The Truth
Praise for Claire Douglas:
‘Thrillingly tense and twisty’ B A Paris
‘Kept me up last night – scary, twisty, all too believable’ Jane Corry
‘Tense, claustrophobic and gripping’ Paula Daly
‘A page-turning slow burn’ Cara Hunter
I’ve read several of Claire Douglas’s crime thrillers, and I have to say, I think she’s getting better as she matures. This multi-perspective, tautly written crime drama weaves past mysteries with present and drags the reader along by the hand as reporter Jess Fox tries to untangle the web of lies and misdirections that are needed to solve the brutal murder of an elderly woman and her son, together with the twenty-year old mystery of the disappearance of teenaged Flora Powell. There’s lots of moving parts in this book, with old friendships and relationships, as well as new and current ones, the digging up of old conflicts, and plenty of creepy, sinister lurking around. Full of atmosphere and very engaging, there’s plenty of mystery here, and I have to admit I really did not guess what was going on – although in retrospect, it was cleverly laid out with a breadcrumb trail.
I particularly liked the main character, Jess, finding her feet in her new job and dealing with the conflict that comes of being personally and professionally involved in a crime investigation. Her relationship with her boyfriend Rory was also very enjoyable, and something I would have liked to see more of.
For a book which opens with a shocking double murder, very little is heard in the story about the two victims, which is something I would have liked to see more of also, although I can understand why the author made the choices she did, having finished the book as a whole. Jess’s friend Jack, though, I felt deserved a bigger part of the narrative. I really liked him, and as Jess’s only friend outside of her relationship, I felt that his part in her life was downplayed in a way he didn’t deserve.
Finally, and this is entirely a personal preference, I didn’t particularly like the shifting narrative – not that I dislike multiple points of view (I don’t!), but I do dislike when one is first person and others are third person. It really jars with me and I find it harder to get into the flow of the writing.
Claire Douglas is definitely capable of writing a slick and engaging thriller, with many moving pieces and enough surprises to keep you guessing. Background characters are fleshed out with their own lives, and you get the feeling there is a lot going on in the author’s head that never made it onto the page. This adds depth and realism to the story, leading to a satisfying conclusion and overall a thoroughly enjoyable experience.