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Book Review: Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas

Then She Vanishes opens with an uncharacteristic and shocking act, no clear motive behind it, but as Claire Douglas soon shows us, things are rarely that straightforward, especially when it comes to family.

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?

Claire Douglas shows how this family continues to be affected and their lives shaped by the unsolved disappearance of elder sister Flora some years earlier, together with how it must feel to have someone you love identified as the perpetrator of a crime, being unable to speak to them about it, all while having to deal with the press camped out on your doorstep and needing to go about some semblance of normal life.

What made this story for me was the character of Jess, the disgraced young journalist, who returns to the seaside town that was once her childhood home, in search of a good story before the competition finds it. Now thrown back into the orbit of people she once idolised, at a vulnerable time for them, it’s fascinating to watch her attempt to rekindle the relationship and observe her own personal dilemma play out: Will she choose career over what was once a surrogate family to her?

I loved how much more involved this book became, the further I read into it. Then She Disappears reminded me how relationships and family are complicated and nuanced creatures, how vulnerable human beings are and how devious we can be. Tragically, it also shows how oblivious we can be to the people and things happening all around us and why we often miss the obvious.

Then She Disappears is the shocking and absorbing story of a family once again finding themselves in crisis, and the many papered-over cracks and layers that lie behind that. Claire Douglas tells their story with sensitivity and I couldn’t help but be affected by it. It also serves as a useful reminder that things are seldom as obvious or as simple as the headlines suggest. Loved this and can recommend it.

Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas is published by Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Books UK. It is available as an audiobook and ebook now and in paperback from 8 August. You can find it at Amazon UK or buy it from Hive instead, where each purchase helps support your local independent bookshop. Claire Douglas is a Sunday Times Top 5 Bestseller of four thrillers. You can find her on Twitter

My thanks to the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley

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