I whizz through scores of books for work but I’ve rarely read one that made me cry on the train. Luckily no one was sitting next to me on the 15.28 to Waterloo. If they had been, they might have been surprised to see a middle-aged woman in a spotty dress blubbering at Lisa Jewell’s new book, Then She Was Gone.
I’ve always been a fan of Lisa Jewell’s novels – right from the days when the high-brow poet and academic Tom Paulin reviewed Ralph’s Party on Newsnight Review and declared it to be “a breath of fresh air”.
Jewell’s publishers are predicting great things for Then She Was Gone and trust me, they are right to do so. It’s a domestic noir thriller – darker and more emotionally charged than her earlier work, but just as readable.
The plot centres on Ellie, a golden girl who inexplicably vanishes from a London street just before her GCSEs. Laurel, her mother, never gives up hope of seeing her again but ten years after her disappearance the police leads, precious few of them, have all gone cold. Laurel’s family is fractured, her marriage has broken down under the strain and she hasn’t slept properly for a decade.
Then one day, an attractive stranger walks into Laurel’s life and sweeps her off her feet. Within a few days she stays the night at his house and is introduced to his charismatic nine-year-old daughter – who, gulp, looks exactly like Ellie did at that age.
I was utterly gripped by Then She Was Gone. I was a little bit scared too – but no way in hell was I going to put this haunting book down for a second.
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell (Century, £12.99)