I discovered Christobel Kent about a year ago when I listened to an audiobook of her novel The Loving Husband. I loved it. So I was excited to get a review copy of this one, just published this month. Would it be as good?
The Day She Disappeared: the She in the title refers to Beth, warm-hearted, beautiful, promiscuous. She's been working in a pub in a small seaside town somewhere in England, but one day she just doesn't turn up for work. Nobody takes this too seriously - she's got a reputation as a free spirit, and everyone assumes she's just taken off somewhere with a bloke. Everyone, that is, apart from her friend and fellow barmaid Natalie, who is missing her terribly. Nat has actually had a couple of texts supposedly from Beth saying she was off to spend a bit of time with her mother, but she's got a bad feeling about it and it's made considerably worse when she calls Beth's mother to learn she hasn't spoken to her daughter for years. Nat is fragile, recovering from a regretted abortion and a break-up with needy, unstable Jim, and Beth was a source of tremendous support. But when she contacts the police, she can't get them to take an interest. They are, in any case, concentrating on the recent murder of a young man whose body turned up in the river. Even the fact that he knew Beth doesn't cut any ice with them.
We know, pretty much for certain, that something bad has happened to Beth. This is because from the very beginning we have access to the thought processes of a very unpleasant character who is clearly responsible. This, we deduce, is the man who has been spotted by 93-year-old Victor, who was sitting outside his caravan one day and saw a man coming up from the river with blood on his sleeve. Victor wants to tell the police, but he has some kind of mild stroke and ends up in hospital, his speech and memory temporarily disabled.
So structurally the novel swings between three point of view - Natalie's, as we watch her in her solitary search for what has happened to her best friend - Victor's, as he struggles to regain his memory and communicate his disquiet - and the unnamed perpetrator, who is watching Natalie from a distance and has her lined up as his next victim. All three strands are incredibly tense and nail-biting, and the narrative is constructed in such a way that you literally cannot begin to guess which of the several men who Nat has contact with is the actual villain. I certainly had no idea and I'm sure you wouldn't either.
In addition to all this there's an almost equally tense sub-plot concerning Victor's beloved only daughter Sophie. She's moved to London and married a man with whom at first she was very much in love. But, as Victor has worked out for himself, Richard is an abuser who keeps Sophie on a tight rein and more or less prevents her from visiting her much loved father. He is violent towards her if she doesn't toe the line, and also seems to physically abuse their little son Rufus. She manages to get away when her father is hospitalised, but Richard is threatening to come down and remove the child. This is all really well done, and Victor a wonderfully drawn character - I can't recall another novel in which someone in their nineties has been shown to be so bright, alert and full of energy, though he's totally aware that some of his faculties are getting a bit eroded and that he doesn't have all that long to live.
So - if you're in the market for an intelligent, lucid, thought-provoking psychological thriller, look no further. Is it as good as The Loving Husband? I can't answer that. But in any case I really enjoyed it.