Thrillers about every parent’s worst nightmare – a missing child – make for an extremely crowded bookshelf. Instead of following an over-trodden path, Now You See Her brings a fresh new voice, with two gripping and thought-provoking stories twisting around each other, revealing a disquieting array of secrets.
fiction | mystery | thriller | suspense
back cover blurb
Charlotte is looking after her best friend Harriet’s daughter the day she disappears. She swears she only took her eyes off them for a second.
Devastated, Harriet can no longer bear to see Charlotte. No one could expect her to trust her friend again.
Only now she needs to. Because two weeks later Harriet and Charlotte are both being questioned separately by the police. And secrets are about to surface.
Author – Heidi Perks | Published by – Arrow Books in July 2018 | Pages – 416 (paperback)
Now You See Her has only been on my book shelf for a few months, yet there was something about the cover that made me pick this as my next book to read ahead of others that have been there much longer. I’m a sucker for a good suspense novel, and this was recommended to me by my friend who said she couldn’t put it down. So, that was the clincher … and I wasn’t disappointed.
Books about missing children aren’t hard to find … but that’s their achilles heal; to make one stand out it really needs to deliver something none of the others do. And with so many books of this type out there, it must be hard to create that point of difference.
Now You See Her is about a missing child … but in the same instance, it’s not. It’s about relationships and friendships, and the facade we’ve all put up at one time or another to create a veneer of the life we want others to think we’re living. With an array of genuinely engaging characters, these facades start to fall away, bit by bit, until you find yourself questioning how genuine some friendships really are, and how toxic some relationships can become.
The author quietly drops tantalising breadcrumbs throughout the book that make it impossible to put down – so be prepared to burn the midnight oil when you start this one. Its tense narrative is peppered with subtle behaviours and quietly nuanced descriptions to create cloying and disquieting situations. If this were a film, those screechingly off-key violins would be in the background pretty much all the time. All is most certainly not as it seems.
Harriet and Charlotte are the two main voices telling the story. The two women are close friends with young children, and vastly different approaches to life. The day Harriet asks Charlotte to take her only child, Alice, to the school fete the two women’s friendship is blown apart when Alice goes missing. What could be worse; losing your own child, or losing somebody else’s? Told over two converging timelines, we follow helplessly from the day of the fete and its immediate aftermath, then listen in some weeks later when both Charlotte and Harriet are being questioned by the police.
The story is sinuous and sly, with cleverly positioned changes of timeline and location to keep the reader questioning the motives of almost every adult character. Seemingly throwaway comments transform the picture that’s forming in your head; and long-standing friendships start to unravel as playground gossip and social media speculation give a voice to the judgemental and disingenuous. Charlotte’s once close school-Mum friends are quick to distance themselves; their vilification of her forcing you to see her through more sympathetic eyes.
Slowly but surely, Harriet’s home life comes to the fore, establishing a claustrophobic undercurrent for the duration of the book. Brian, Harriet’s husband is superbly written, with cleverly-timed behaviours that made the hairs on the back of my neck prickle. This isn’t a spoiler – unless you’re reading the book with your eyes closed you can’t fail to notice there are problems in this marriage – but it would impossible to write about this review without touching on Brian. In my opinion, he is the most richly written character in the book, because not only do I want to snatch my hand away at the thought of him reaching out, but I can almost feel his aftershave catch in the back of my throat. Then there’s the house – I can’t recall another fiction book I’ve read where the house Brian bought for his family becomes a metaphor for the man; flagging up big red flashing warning signs from the outset. Genuinely great writing.
Now You See Her is a perfectly-paced, engrossing story that will keep you guessing … and second guessing. You can’t fail but to feel empathy for all the characters, even the clearly unlikable. It will make you question your own judgement of people and situations: Is kidnap really kidnap when it’s done out of desperation? Can the archetypal ‘baddie’ actually be a victim? At what point did you start thinking the kidnap was actually ok?
And what about the title – Now You See Her? Is it a glib reference to a magician’s vanishing act to describe the apparent kidnap of a child? Or could it be a more thought-provoking statement about the revelation of someone’s true character once the secrets and lies start to fall away? That question isn’t answered in the book, but my preference is for the latter.
I’ve emerged from this book with a truly unlikeable man as my favourite character. Can villains and anti-heroes actually become likeable?