Grayson Sykes finally scores her first big assignment as a private investigator. She must find Isabel Lincoln, who disappeared along with her boyfriend’s dog, a Labradoodle named Kenny G. Gray expects solving the case will be a slam dunk, but things spiral when she discovers domestic abuse claims about the boyfriend, who seems more interested in being reunited with his pooch than finding his girlfriend.
Title: And Now She’s Gone | Author: Rachel Howzell Hall | Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates | Pages: 369 | ISBN: 9781250753175 | Publication date: 22 September 2020 | Starred Review: Yes | Source: Purchased
And Now She’s Gone Review
“She didn’t like Dr. Ian O’Donnell, and she hoped that Isabel had left a scorching review of him on Yelp before she disappeared. “…and the tiny-dicked bastard hogged all the covers and ate his earwax.” But liking wasn’t a requirement of the job, especially since Rader Consulting’s business model was built on the backs of cheaters and scammers, hags and nags.”
Grayson Sykes makes a complicated protagonist. A former foster child with a violent past, she embraces the opportunity for the fresh start her job provides. Her case, however, opens up old wounds as her affinity with the missing woman increases. A romance with a sexy bartender distracts her from her deep desire for a happy-ever-after with her boss. Meanwhile, an invitation to a bachelorette party getaway with her crazy coworkers takes her to a place she’d hoped to never again visit—Sin City.
The novel alternates between Grayson’s case and flashbacks from another woman, Mrs. Dixon,who experienced abuse at the hands of her husband. The two tales have many similarities which add to the tension as the reader wonders if Isabel shouldn’t be found, assuming she’s even alive.
The cast of characters is huge, but most are well developed. I had a hard time keeping track of Greyson’s foster mothers, who had the feel of a dramatic Greek chorus, singing the sorrow of Grayson’s unsettling upbringing. Yet, I adored every reference to them, because the author has a talent for serving tragedy with a side of sass. Details like Grayson’s booze of choice matter, connecting her past and present.
The case is complex with more suspects added along with oodles of clues and red herrings. Meanwhile, Gray struggles with her own issues, trying to stay safe and keep her secrets unsurfaced. Her awkwardness makes her relatable, as does her lingering medical pain which she constantly debates on whether to manage with prescription pills, less potent over the counter options, or booze. The chemistry between Gray and her love interests adds a bit of steam, but doesn’t steal attention away from the main mystery. The bachelorette excursion ends up being important to the plot as well as an opportunity to showcase some of the supporting cast.
There is a moment during Grayson’s investigation, when she comes across a clue which is not immediately identified, instead it is described as “something else glimmered.” At first, I groaned thinking the author was using the kind of overt manipulation I hate, but which is sometimesemployed in mysteries and thrillers. I was pleasantly surprised in the way this instance was used to create tension, but was resolved within the chapter. Instead of feeling cheated, I was left impressed with the deft handling of the clue.
The mystery aspect kept me guessing to the end. Beautiful writing and humorous moments delivered by the quirky characters kept the sobering subject matter of domestic violence from being a downer. While And Now She’s Gone appears to be a standalone novel, the rich character development of Grayson and the supporting cast sets the book up to be a great series starter. The epilogue wasn’t ideal for me, as some of the resolution occurs behind the scenes, but I enjoyed this book immensely and would one click the heck out of any sequels. I look forward to reading more of Rachel Howzell Hall’s work.
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