Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Laurel's eldest daughter, Ellie, disappeared just before her GCSEs. A decade on, Laurel is amicably divorced from her husband Paul and living alone. Her relationships with her other adult children, Hanna and Jake, are also perfectly amicable but not, somehow, as close as they should be in the wake of losing bright, kind, cheerful Ellie.

Eventually, Laurel meets Floyd, a handsome, well-dressed single man whose own family set-up is also a little complicated: his adult daughter Sara-Jane is a slightly troubled character, and he's a single dad to Sara-Jane's half-sister Poppy, aged nine, whose dysfunctional mother effectively abandoned her on his doorstep.

When Laurel meets Poppy, she's nonplussed by her unusual personality and eerily precocious manner, which is charming and infuriating by turns. But what strikes her most of all is how much Poppy looks like the missing Ellie. Is Laurel going mad? Is the resemblance purely a coincidence? Or is something much more strange going on?

I recently reviewed another book in this domestic noir subgenre of pyschological thriller, Clare Boyd's Little Liar, which I hated, so I'm glad to say Lisa Jewell's Then SheWas Gone is of a completely different standard. The plot is, admittedly, somewhat far-fetched, but in a way that somehow works in the context of this particular book, and the characters are well-crafted. In particular, Laurel herself felt credible and real, and after so many psychological thrillers centred on thirty-something women I was delighted to read one with a character in her mid-50s with adult children who isn't some sort of socially inadequate stalker. She's certainly flawed, but realistically so, given what she's been through, and she makes an intelligent, courageous and determined protagonist.

There's one relationship in this book that, at first, I felt was too unlikely to believe, but this did come to make more sense to me as the story built to its conclusion.

As I said, the plot does require some suspension of disbelief, but this gives the book a slightly heightened, almost gothic feel - it's a novel that hovers on the border of thriller and horror and as such, it is pretty dark and your jaw may drop at some of the more extreme developments. I think this blending of genres works really well, though, and in combination with the skilled characterisation and the twists and turns of the story, it makes Then She Was Gone a gripping read.