I have always enjoyed creepy, spooky, and disquieting things. Crime novel? Hand it over. Documentaries about murder or cults? Yes please. But even I, a self-professed true crime queen, have to admit this book was dark. And I don’t just mean thematically. I mean it was really, really disturbing. Enjoyable? Absolutely. Uncomfortable to read? You better believe it.
Set in London, Then She Was Gone tells the story of a woman whose favourite daughter, Ellie, disappeared over a decade earlier. Still reeling from the loss of her beloved child, Laurel hasn’t allowed herself to move on. Until she meets Floyd, a charming, handsome single father who sweeps her off her feet. Their relationship moves quickly and Laurel is happy for the first time in years, but she can’t help feeling something is off about Floyd’s young daughter -- a girl who looks mysteriously like Ellie.
I want to start my review by saying this: you’ll likely guess the surprise twist in this novel long before it arrives. Lisa Jewell dangles all of the information you need to put the story together right in front of you, and then still manages to surprise and scare you once the moment you’ve been waiting for arrives.
The first half of Then She Was Gone didn’t do anything special for me. It was well written and entertaining, but there was nothing that made it stand out from other thrillers or mysteries that I’ve read this year. I was actually thinking about putting the book aside and starting something else. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the book took a dark turn and became something else entirely. I was turning pages like crazy trying to finish Then She Was Gone, and even when I did I felt on edge and overwhelmed.
Jewell has presented a cast of dark, troubled characters with fantastic backstories and unsettling habits. I wouldn’t say the book is character driven. While I did enjoy reading about Laurel, Floyd, and Floyd’s daughter, they weren’t the reason I stuck the book out. Then She Was Gone is really about the shock factor, and it probably isn’t for everyone.
Seasoned lovers of thrillers, mysteries and crime books will enjoy Then She Was Gone, but if you’re squeamish or prefer more literary novels, then I wouldn’t recommend this one.