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Monday, January 6, 2020

Grace is Gone by Emily Elgar

This novel actually arrived in my mail a few weeks ago, thanks to HarperCollins Publishers. It was a welcome surprise, and gave me the chance to read a new author that hit it out of the park with her first novel, If You Knew Her. Her second effort--wow, it really does sit with you for some time after you've finished it. 

The plot is fairly simple: Meg and Grace. Mother and daughter. Meg takes care of Grace full-time; Grace is almost eighteen and has lived most of her life as a very ill young girl. She's in a wheelchair, has a feeding tube in her stomach, and suffers from seizures, food issues, headaches... you name it. Meg has spent years taking Grace to doctors and specialists, getting her every bit of care she can find. Both Meg and Grace are beloved by the small town of Ashford, in Cornwall. Folks around there see Meg and Grace as their own, and are fiercely protective of them. 

The novel begins with the horrific murder of Meg, in her home, in her bed. Grace is missing. Jon, a journalist who wrote an article about the two women that riled up the town and made him a pariah, hears about the murder and can't help but drive over to see what is going on. His article questioned why Grace's father Simon wasn't allowed to see his daughter. Meg has told everyone that Simon is abusive and crazy, and pushed her down the stairs. Everyone in Ashford agrees with Meg, and Simon is never allowed to see Grace. Jon, reeling from the effects of the article on his marriage, still feels on edge about the article, and knows something just isn't right, but doesn't know what. 

Cara, the young woman who finds Meg, has known Meg and Grace for most of her life. She befriended Grace when they moved in next door, and even though Grace was a few years younger, Cara felt a bond with Grace. She was always amazed at the obviously close relationship between mother and daughter. Except in the last few years, Cara has gone away to school, and seen less and less of Grace. She's haunted by the idea of Grace being kidnapped and without her vital medications. Is she still alive? Who took her? Everyone believes her father Simon did it all, and there's a manhunt out for him. Meanwhile, the whole town gears up for a search effort, with their minds already made up that Simon must be the murderer. 

Cara and Jon meet, and between the two of them, they slowly start to pick up little clues, and the whole novel is the two of them putting the puzzle together. It's sharp observation, going over and over the little bits of information they do have, and following their instincts that lead them to resolving the disappearance of Grace, and the murder of Meg. It's quite the twist at the end.

It took me a bit to get into the story. Everyone, seriously, is a disaster. Jon's marriage is falling apart, he's sleep deprived, has to stay on the down low so no one recognizes him as "that reporter". Cara is traumatized by finding Meg and her guilt for not being there for Grace. Simon is nowhere to be found, but his story is one of a troubled man driven mad by grief. The whole town is under the spell of Meg and Grace, and ready to paint Simon guilty without any shred of evidence. 

I figured out really quickly what exactly was going on with Meg and Grace, but that's only part of the puzzle. It's a big part of the puzzle, but there's much more to it. Slowly, the story gathers steam and then races along towards a conclusion that will keep you thinking about all of it long after you've finished the book. I'm still putting it all together a day later. Definitely a good thriller!

This novel will be out  in the U.S. on Tuesday, January 7th, 2020 in hardcover, paperback, audio, and ebook. 

Rating: 4/6 for a thriller that seems fairly simple at first, but has many layers that will have you working along with Jon and Cara to figure it all out, and wow--an ending that packs a wallop. A big thanks to HarperCollins for the advanced reading copy.  

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