Claire Douglas’s The Girls Who Disappeared is the latest novel from a woman with a great deal of experience in the form. It also makes clever use of the True Crime podcast genre. It’s not a rare setup these days, but can still be greatly effective under the right circumstances.
The book starts with a simple look at the events that Olivia experiences while in a car with friends, seeing a man in the road and swerving, only to black out and wake up alone in the car. This sudden and horrifying opening is reallistically executed, and will help to make the crime seem current to many readers.
The volume then quickly cuts to Jenna Halliday. She considers herself a journalist, and is working on a podcast to commemorate the strange event. As a concerned outsider, she finds herself up against violent warnings and disgusting calling cards from those around her. It seemed like a bad situation and the mix of unwelcoming and slightly too friendly locals do nothing to help with this.
She has come into town near the anniversary of the crash with the intent to do a story on the events by interviewing everyone she is aware of that might have been involved or make a good story. There is a clear interest in this from a storytelling point of view, and the fact that the disappearances were not solved only make this even higher interest as anyone following podcasts will know “unsolved” cases are more likely to draw an easy audience.
The mystery in this story steadily deepens with point of view switching between Olivia and Jenna, one trying to live her life during the anniversary and the other trying to make a living and get an interesting story. Each thread works quite well, although there is a third that is more devious. This is a series of first person flashbacks entirely in italics. In and of themselves they are perfectly fine, providing what is probably supposed to be an accurate view of events taking place in the past as hints are given about them. While they work well enough, they are so different from the other points of view and placed in a way to remove ambiguity that it might startle some readers.
The twists and turns this case takes are often obvious in retrospect. There is no shortage of suspects no hand. These range from people who arrived in town conveniently after what happened, to loved ones of the survivor, and even local law enforcement. The particular ways that some seem eager to help while others try to push Jenna away do a good job of toying with reader expectations.
Overall, The Girls Who Disappeared is a solid book. It has interesting characters, a believable and entertaining mystery, as well as a steadily building suspense. Fans of Douglas’s work are going to enjoy this latest volume, and interested parties should definitely check it out.