When a child dies, the bereaved torture themselves with asking: Why did someone so young have to die? What kind of life might they have gone on to experience? If the child has disappeared, presumed murdered, there is yet more speculation: How did they die? Where is the body? Who killed them? On such questions Susanna Jones’s new novel turns. Julia has been gone nearly twenty years when her one-time best friend, Isabel, revisits their childhood town determined to piece together the puzzle of her death once and for all. For Isabel, in addition to the torment of ‘not knowing’, there is the guilt of the survivor: two fifteen-year-olds set off on their paper rounds that morning in 1982, but only one came home. The catalyst for her quest is the death in a car crash of Owen, the girls’ classmate and Julia’s newly jilted boyfriend at the time of her disappearance. Isabel suspects Owen of killing her, but no body was found and no one has ever been charged. Returning to her native Yorkshire from Istanbul, where she has made a new life with her Turkish husband and their young daughter, she sees Owen’s funeral as her opportunity to rake over a case that the police have long since consigned to the files of unsolved crimes.
This might read like the set-up for a straightforward murder mystery, but anyone familiar with Jones’s two previous books will know that, in her deliciously disorientating fictional worlds, nothing is ever quite as it seems. In her debut, The Earthquake Bird, the subtle unravelling of the heroine’s true nature from