Book Review: The Moment She Left, by Susan Lewis

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_moment_she_leftThe Moment She Left is one of those books that pulls you in very quickly and keeps you turning the pages avidly until the end. I had not read any Susan Lewis novels before this one but I’ll be keeping an eye out for her from now on.

In the first chapter we’re introduced to Jessica Leonard, who was heading to meet her family, but changed plans at the last minute after getting a call as she entered the railway station. Jessica’s final thoughts are relayed from inside a garage, before the book jumps ahead two years and it’s quickly apparent she never made it home to her family that day.

What happened to Jessica that day? Who did she meet? Where is she and is she alive or dead? These questions have plagued her family – dad Blake, who blames himself for having to relocate the whole family after something happened that caused him to lose his job, severely depressed mother Jenny, and twin brother Matt.

Blake hires retired detective Andee Lawrence to go over the case again in case the police missed something. She’s in the middle of her own crisis, splitting from husband Martin and unwittingly renewing contact with former lover Graeme – who just happens to be Blake’s boss.

Graeme’s sister Rowzee has secrets of her own – a serious health issue that she doesn’t want to burden her family with. She lives with their sister Pamela, who also appears to be hiding something.

At first I thought The Moment She Left was a crime novel but it’s so much more than that. It’s a drama about ordinary people who get caught up in events that dramatically change their lives. The book has a number of twists and turns that had several characters doubting themselves. And one character is being blackmailed, handing over vast sums of cash to an unknown person who is threatening to expose their secret.

Are any of these people connected to Jessica’s disappearance? Rowzee is the one who stumbles on the truth in the end, although by then she is so affected by her illness she’s not sure what’s going on.

I really enjoyed The Moment She Left as Susan Lewis kept the pace going and her characters were likeable and believable. The ending had elements of a fairy tale to it for some of the characters, but who could begrudge that when you know what they had all been through?

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

The Moment She Left
by Susan Lewis
Published by Century
ISBN 9781780891859

Book Review: The Girl Who Came Back, by Susan Lewis

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_girl_who_came_backJules Bright’s happy family life was cruelly shattered by the actions of one young woman. Jules lost everything she held most dear. And now the perpetrator is being released from prison after serving a mere three years for her heinous crimes – and she’s coming back to live in her old neighbourhood.

This, in a nutshell, is the whole plot of The Girl Who Came Back. The reader learns, through flashbacks, just how happy Jules and her family were until Amelia Quentin came into their lives. And we discover, piece by painful piece, what Amelia did to utterly destroy that happiness.

Things are pretty black and white in the world Susan Lewis creates. Jules and her husband are, with one exceptional misstep, a perfectly happy married couple, blissfully living out their idyllic lives running a renovated 600-year-old pub on the coast of south-west England. Daisy, their only child is a perfectly delightful angel, with ‘her bouncy blonde curls and captivating violet-blue eyes’, doted on by all in the village. ‘Fortune has bestowed a dazzling smile on Jules and Kian…’. With a set-up like that, the reader knows that calamity cannot be too far away.

And calamity’s name is Amelia Quentin. This Amelia is much much naughtier than Enid Blyton’s Amelia Jane. Amelia is purely evil without any redeeming qualities whatsoever. From the moment we first meet her as a spoiled, petulant, unattractive child, Amelia is the dark cloud hanging over Jules’ happiness. And now she’s back. How will Jules cope, knowing that the woman who destroyed her family is back in town and seemingly having a grand ol’ time on her release from prison?

I understand that at least one of the minor characters in The Girl Who Came Back has featured in another of Susan Lewis’ books, Behind Closed Doors. I am sure her faithful readers will find this a satisfying read. However, I am not counting myself among them. I cannot rate this book as being more than an average read. Although the whodunit aspect is apparent from the blurb on the back cover, I found that the “what she did” took an agonisingly long time to unravel through frustrating flashbacks between past and present. And the “why she did it” is never fully explored beyond Amelia simply being a bad egg. The characters were too wholly good or wholly bad to be more than two dimensional, despite the laborious detail Lewis goes into in describing everything about them.

Susan Lewis is a best-selling and very prolific author. Fans of her work will no doubt be eager to add this latest novel to their To Read lists.

Reviewed by Tiffany Matsis

The Girl Who Came Back
by Susan Lewis
Published by Century
ISBN 9781780891835