Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Then She Vanishes is a high-octane thriller packed with mystery and suspense. Jess is a reporter for the local newspaper in a small seaside town in England. Heather, a former close friend to Jess, is the prime suspect in a double homicide. Jess questions whether Heather is guilty. This puts Jess in a difficult spot for pursuing her own investigation. After Heather’s sister, Flora, disappeared without a trace nearly twenty years ago at the age of sixteen, Jess’s friendship with Heather’s family fell apart. Will the past hinder Jess in her efforts to find answers? Is Flora’s disappearance connected in some way to the unlawful killing of two people? Will the cold and present cases be solved, and the truth revealed?

Claire Douglas has done an outstanding job of creating a many-faceted novel. Topics like violent criminal acts, illegal drug trade, substance use and addiction, and kidnapping are skillfully woven together. Douglas includes other key elements in the story, such as the psychological and physical aspects of dealing with horrifying circumstances outside of one’s control. Readers can also identify with the characters and the tough choices they make in relationships that will have a lasting impact on their lives, both personally and professionally.

Then She Vanishes is set in the year 2012. However, a separate but pertinent part of the story takes place in 1994. Douglas has written the story in both the first and third person. The well-rounded characters are a boon to driving the plot forward. Most chapters are labeled with a character heading. However, there is a mystery surrounding some of the chapters as the character speaking is not named, which adds to the desire to figure out their identity. The story proceeds at a fast pace but still allows time for readers to get to know the characters and see what makes them respond in a particular way to their situation.

Douglas hooks readers from the first page with elements of intrigue that arouse their curiosity and leave them anticipating what will happen next. This superbly crafted thriller keeps readers in suspense as to the outcome. It is not only thought-provoking but also disturbing at times. The plot includes some unexpected, but well-placed twists and turns that keep readers on their toes all the way to a surprise ending. The book is a brilliant read from start to finish. A smattering of mild profanity is included. You do not want to miss out on reading this emotionally compelling and tension filled story.