Main / Books / The Night She Disappeared

The Night She Disappeared

By Lisa Jewell



Book review and synopsis for The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell, A psychological thriller about the fallout from a young couple's disappearance.

Synopsis

In The Night She Disappeared, a young woman and her boyfriend disappear after partying at the massive country estate of a new college friend, on beautiful summer night in a charming English suburb.

One year later, a writer moves into a cottage on the edge of the woods that border the same estate. Known locally as the Dark Place, the dense forest is the writer’s favorite area for long walks and it’s on one such walk that she stumbles upon a mysterious note that simply reads, “DIG HERE.”

Could this be a clue towards what has happened to the missing young couple? And what exactly is buried in this haunted ground?

(The Detailed Plot Summary is also available, below)

Detailed Plot Summary

Section-by-Section Summary
See the Section-by-Section Summary of The Night She Disappeared
Quick Plot Summary

The Night She Disappeared it told via three intertwined timelines, one beginning a year before the disappearance, one around the time of the disappearance and one a year after the disappearance.

In Parts I and II, Tallulah Knox and Zach Allister are a 19-year-old couple with a 1-year-old baby, Noah. They go out one night in June 2017 and don't return, and Tallulah's mother Kim starts to investigate their disappearance.

They were last seen at the mansion belonging to the parents of Scarlett Jacques, a classmate of Tallulah's. They'd been there with some friends of Scarlett's -- Mimi, Lexie and Liam. Lexie and Liam left earlier in the night.

In the year leading up to that night, Tallulah and Scarlett had met and slowly begun a tumultuous romance. Tallulah's had neglected to tell Scarlett that she had a child with Zach, which is why she was reluctant to dump him. Scarlett's jealousy over that relationship caused her to get back together with her ex-boyfriend Liam for a while.

Later, in 2018, Sophie Beck , a detective novelist, arrives in town with her boyfriend, Shaun, who is starting a job as head teacher for Maypole, the private boarding school in the area. Sophie looks into the disappearances and learns that the Jacques' house is rumored to have had a secret underground tunnel.

She also finds a sign that says "DIG HERE" in her garden (which seems vaguely familiar to her). When she digs, she finds an engagement ring, and she tells Kim about it. Kim had known Zach had been possibly planning on proposing that to Tallulah night, and she wonders if he had reacted badly after being turned down. Soon after the discovery of the ring, Lexie also finds the same "DIG HERE" sign in her garden. There, they find some type of metal lever, but no one knows what it is.

In Part III, Scarlett tells Tallulah why she dropped out of school for a while in early 2017. It's because she was sexually assaulted after rejecting a man, Guy Croft. As Sophie investigates in 2018, she learns that Jacinta Croft, who formerly ran Maypole, had a husband who had an affair and then disappeared.

Sophie also meets Liam, and at his house she finds artwork that Scarlett had painted of a spiral staircase in her house, which indicates a rectangle with a lever -- like the one found in Lexie's garden -- at the bottom step.

In Part IV and V, it's revealed that the night of the disappearances, Zach had proposed and gotten turned out, but he'd also found out about Tallulah and Scarlett, which really set him off. When he threatened to use that information to take baby Noah away from Tallulah, Scarlett had overheard and killed him. Scarlett and her mother, Joss, had then hid his body in the house's secret tunnel.

Next, Joss drugged Tallulah to force her to stay and help them cover it up, making people believe Tallulah and Zach ran off together (and threatening to tell the police that Tallulah was the killer). Once the police finished investigating, the Jacques family left the country with Tallulah to stay at a house in Guernsey. Eventually, Tallulah started demanding to leave, so Joss started drugging her again to keep her at bay. In 2018, she's still alive, but heavily addicted to drugs.

Meanwhile, Sophie and Kim direct the police to the staircase depicted in Liam's painting, and they use the metal lever to open the passageway where the police find Zach's remains. Sophie also discovers that Lexie has some clue where the Jacques are, and Lexie shows them Scarlett's secret Instagram account that ends up leading the police to where the Jacques are. Tallulah is rescued.

(As it turns out, Mimi had overheard everything that happened that night, but pretended to be sleeping through it. She was the one who pocketed the ring. A few weeks ago, she'd finally told Lexie what she knew and gave her the ring. Before then, Lexie had believed that the Scarlett and Joss had been running away because Joss's husband was abusive, which is why she kept their secret. Lexie didn't want to get involved, which is why she planted the evidence in Sophie's garden.)

In the Epilogue, it's revealed that Liam is the one who killed Guy Croft after he assaulted Scarlett. His body was also hidden in the tunnel. Scarlett had later asked Liam to clean up the evidence of both murders. However, by then Liam was tired of being treated like a lapdog by Scarlett. He instead burned up Guy's remains, but left Zach's there for the police to find.

For more detail, see the full Section-by-Section Summary.

If this summary was useful to you, please consider supporting this site by leaving a tip ($1, $2, or $4) or joining the Patreon!

Book Review

The Night She Disappeared is mystery-thriller author Lisa Jewell’s latest offering, published recently in the UK and soon to be published on September 7 in the US. It involves the disappearance of a teenage couple, Tallulah Knox and Zach Allister, from a grand house situated next to the woods, set in a picturesque village in Surrey Hills.

The Night She Disappeared is a slightly slow-burning mystery, and there’s not a ton of twists and turns. Instead, it focuses heavily on the characters’ personal dramas, and it has a police procedural-feel to the story as one of the characters is essentially an amateur sleuth.

Tallulah is a teenage mother who has recently gotten back together with her baby’s father Zach, but she finds herself attracted to Scarlett, a wealthy female classmate. Meanwhile, a year after the disappearances, a writer of cozy detective novels, Sophie Beck, shows up in town. When Sophie learns about the case, she finds herself compelled to investigate.

As the mystery ramps up, there are intriguing elements like a sign saying “DIG HERE” that feels oddly familiar to Sophie, or the presence of a handsome young man on campus who seems interested in helping Sophie investigate, but who is also connected to the events of that night.

The book follows three timelines — one timeline tracing the events leading up to the disappearance, another from the time of the disappearance, and one taking place a year later — as it reveals what exactly happened to Tallulah and Zach.

Every time I read a Lisa Jewell novel, I’m reminded of why I like her books. I just find them very readable. For me, I stylistically prefer mystery-thrillers where the writing allows me to get lost in the story — so something not so long-winded that it’s a distraction, but also not so basic that it feels hack-y. Jewell’s novels, I find, are a good fit for my preferences.

The Night She Disappeared is no exception. Like the other books I’ve read of hers, I found it easy to get pulled into the narrative, and like her other books, she manages to create believe-able characters with enough character development for me to feel invested in their story.

I guessed part of the ending, and there’s a few parts of the plot that seem a little incredulous, which is unfortunate (see the Spoiler-ish Thoughts, below). Still, as a whole, the mystery is decent and the story was structured in a way that kept my interest.

Read it or Skip it?

If you don’t mind a slightly slow-burning mystery-thriller (it’s not that slow, I only mention this for readers who know they are particularly impatient), I think this one’s a solid mystery, and I always find Jewell’s writing to be very readable.

The Night She Disappeared offers up an enjoyable mix of capable writing, an intriguing premise, and relatively believable drama. It’s told in a way that suspenseful with plenty of intriguing cliff-hangers along the way.

To be honest, I think I would have preferred a few more surprises in this story and it isn’t as perfectly plotted as I would’ve liked, but I still think this is worth a read for mystery-thriller readers, and fans of Lisa Jewell won’t be disappointed by this book.

See The Night She Disappeared on Amazon.

Explanations & Spoiler-ish Thoughts

SPOILERS START HERE. You’ve been warned!

Overall, I thought this was a decent mystery that’s structured in a way to keep things suspenseful and entertaining. The parts that I thought here a bit incredulous:

– If Lexie knew weeks ago about Scarlett’s secret Instagram, why didn’t she find a way to reveal that to begin with? Why would she wait until questioning by the cops? According to the story, she was keeping that secret because she thought Martin was abusive, but Mimi had told her the truth a few weeks before Sophie ever showed up.

– In general, for me, Lexie’s actions are the aspects of the story that aren’t really explained in a satisfying way. Like, let’s be honest, if someone knows about a murder and has clues that can help the police (but doesn’t want to get involved in the investigation), the more reasonable route would be to leave an anonymous tip with the police.

Even in the context of a mystery-thriller novel, it’s a stretch to believe that the next best alternative would be to: find a writer of detective novels, bury the evidence in her yard with a sign similar to one fictionalized in her first novel, hope that she learns about the disappearances, and THEN hope further that it sparks her interest enough that she would decide to investigate enough to link the evidence to the disappearances and then report it to the police?

It would’ve made a least little more sense if Lexie had decided to leave this clue AFTER she’d found out Sophie had learned about the disappearances and was looking into them. However, doing this without even knowing if Sophie would ever bother looking into where the ring came from or why seems pretty ridiculous.

– As a final note, I sort of think the book should have been named The Night THEY Disappeared, instead of The Night SHE Disappeared. The fact that Zach’s disappearance is completely irrelevant (as far as the title is concerned) was sort of a dead giveaway that he was going to turn out to be kind of a disposable character that we’re not supposed to care about.

Anyway, I’m curious to hear others’ thoughts about these things, too!

Where can I find a full plot summary of The Night She Disappeared?

Right here! You can find a quick recap and a lengthier version of the summary over here.

What happened to Tallulah and Zach?

Scarlett killed Zach when she heard him threaten to take away Tallulah’s baby (after he learned about Scarlett and Tallulah’s affair. Scarlett’s mother Joss then drugged Tallulah when she learned about what had happened and forced her to help them cover it up. Scarlett and Joss then bring Tallulah with them to flee the country and keep her sedated. At the end, Tallulah is saved.

The Night She Dispappeared Audiobook

Narrated by: Joanne Froggatt
Length: 11 hours 55 minutes

Hear a sample of The Night She Disappeared audiobook on Libro.fm.

Book Excerpt

Read the first pages of The Night She Disappeared


Share this post