Monday 8 July 2019

BLOG TOUR: Then She Vanishes - Claire Douglas

Summer, 1994. Jess and Heather are best friends – the kind of best friends who get detention together, who share everything, and who spend each day of the hazy, endless summer holiday together. Until the fair comes to town – and Heather’s sister Flora goes missing.  

Twenty years later, Heather walks into a suburban home and shoots two people, before turning the gun on herself. 

As she lies in critical condition, Jess, now a journalist, is sent to cover the case. It’s her chance to prove herself after a terrible mistake almost ruined her career, even if it reopens old scars. 

But Heather’s family, once just like her own, doesn’t trust her anymore, and the closer Jess gets to the truth, the clearer it becomes that the scars from twenty years ago never really healed at all.  

As the case puts pressure on everyone involved, facades begin to crack and relationships begin to splinter. What happened to Flora all those years ago? Is someone watching Jess? And what secrets were the sisters hiding?  

What did I think?

I felt rather smug when I was reading Then She Vanishes; I thought I'd worked it all out, you see.  The more I read, the more I was convinced that I was right but then Claire Douglas totally pulled the rug from underneath me!  Well played, Ms Douglas, very well played indeed.

The story starts with a double murder as an elderly mother and her son are shot in their home.  It looks like an open and shut case as the shooter, Heather, is found barely alive after turning the gun on herself.  With no apparent links between Heather and her victims, and therefore no motive, nobody can explain why Heather would commit such a crime.  Local newspaper reporter, Jess, has an advantage over the national reporters who are hounding Heather's family; Jess was best friends with Heather for a while when they were teenagers but they lost touch when Heather's sister, Flora, went missing.  Surely that was a time when Heather needed Jess the most?  Aha! There's obviously more to the Flora story than meets the eye and so begins a gripping and compelling dual storyline.

I was totally riveted with this book; I loved 16 year old Flora Powell's story as she was completely captivated by a young man working at the fair.  Flora's story is not a teenage romance by any means as it quickly takes on a more sinister edge, which results in her disappearance.  The 'now' setting of the story is 2012, 18 years later, and Flora's family still don't know what happened to her back in 1994.  I think that's the worst thing for families of missing persons; the not knowing what happened to them and where the finding of a body would actually bring some closure and peace.  As we find out, this isn't the only tragedy that has struck the Powell family; they have certainly had more than their fair share of heartache.

The character of Jess is very well written; she's a journalist and we often look at them in an unfavourable light for very good reasons, which Jess learned about first hand.  After a murky past, it feels like she is almost trying to reinvent herself and I could really feel the struggle between her personal and professional lives as she investigates her former best friend.  It's a really good conflict to consider; which is more important - doing a good job by reporting all of the facts or protecting a fragile renewed friendship?  I think it would be really difficult to be objective where a friend or loved one is involved but Jess tries to get the balance right and I really admired her for that.

With chapters based on characters' different points of view, you get to experience the story from every angle.  There are a few secrets to uncover and you never know when the next one is going to pop up so this kept me rapidly turning the pages, even though I thought I knew what had happened.  I love being wrong; it's definitely an indication of a good book! 

With this being her fifth novel, I think Claire Douglas is going from strength to strength and she's proving to be a force to be reckoned with in the thriller chart.  Although it's of a slightly slower pace than thrillers I'm used to reading, I really enjoyed Then She Vanishes; it's as mesmerising as the sparkly lights of the fairground and I couldn't put it down.  It gives me great pleasure to award the full 5 stars to Then She Vanishes and name it as a Book Magnet recommended read.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

About the author:

Claire Douglas always wanted to write novels and, after many years of trying to get published, her dream came true when she won the Marie Claire Debut Novel Award in 2013 with THE SISTERS.

Her subsequent novels LOCAL GIRL MISSING, LAST SEEN ALIVE and DO NOT DISTURB all reached the Sunday Times top ten bestsellers list and are published in over fifteen countries. LOCAL GIRL MISSING was the bestselling crime debut of 2018 in Germany. Her fifth thriller, THEN SHE VANISHES is due for release in Ebook end of June 2019 and in paperback August 2019.

You can find Claire on Twitter at @DougieClaire, instagram as clairedouglasauthor or visit her Facebook page clairedouglasauthor.

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