This was really good! Part of me wanted to give it my first five star rating of 2022, but I’m holding out for true love on that one. This was very close, though. I think the only thing stopping me is that I was missing some of that elation that comes from being truly surprised by a book, because I did figure out several key elements/twists on my own before the book revealed them to me.
What remains, though, is a very solid, extremely engaging book about a couple of missing teenage parents in the English countryside, the people left behind, and what happened before, during and after the disappearance. Jewell deftly weaves a nonlinear timeline, following several narrators, the most important of whom are Kim, her daughter Tallulah, and Sophie.
The book starts off with Kim babysitting her one year old grandson, Noah, as his parents take a much-needed night out. Only, they never come home. We also dive back in time to a year prior, when Tallulah is starting college in nearby Manton to become a social worker. Her POV in the timeline leading up to her disappearance is a much-needed look into who Tallulah is as a person, and pretty quickly, I found myself futilely hoping she wasn’t dead, that we wouldn’t end the book with yet another dead girl. The final main character, Sophie, writes detective novels and finds herself pulled in to the reopening of the cold case into Tallulah and Zach’s disappearance when she finds an engagement ring buried under a sign with an arrow pointing down that says DIG HERE.
What really worked for me here was the characters, and that Jewell built the mystery itself on characterization just makes everything hit that much harder. I loved Tallulah, who is experiencing a coming of age after she has already become a parent herself, and Kim, her mother. Their relationship is strong and lovely, and Kim’s faith in the type of person her daughter is is a huge part in why the investigation into her disappearance keeps going. The writing is also exactly my speed. Clear, precise, and emotionally evocative without trying to impress.
I understand now why Lisa Jewell is a bestselling author, and I’m glad this was my first book by her. I’ll definitely be reading further into her back catalogue.