Quick Review: AND NOW SHE’S GONE by Rachel Howzell Hall (Forge)

HallRH-AndNowShesGoneUSA novice PI tries to unravel the mystery of a missing woman

Isabel Lincoln is gone.

But is she missing?

It’s up to Grayson Sykes to find her. Although she is reluctant to track down a woman who may not want to be found, Gray’s search for Isabel Lincoln becomes more complicated and dangerous with every new revelation about the woman’s secrets and the truth she’s hidden from her friends and family.

Featuring two complicated women in a dangerous cat and mouse game, Rachel Howzell Hall’s And Now She’s Gone explores the nature of secrets — and how violence and fear can lead you to abandon everything in order to survive.

This is the first novel by Hall that I’ve read (which is a little strange, seeing as I have all of her previous novels…). Set in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, this is an engaging mystery about a woman’s disappearance and the novice PI tasked with finding her. Stitching together two parallel-yet-unconnected storylines, I quite enjoyed this.

And Now She’s Gone can be split into two parts: Grayson Sykes’s investigation of Isabel Lincoln’s disappearance, and also Gray’s own past. They take up roughly the same amount of space in the book. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it felt a little bit like reading two novels smooshed together. Both were good, though, so it wasn’t really a problem.

Elements of Gray’s past inform her approach to the missing person investigation, as she is led on a merry chase through Isabel’s life in LA and with her boyfriend, Ian O’Donnell. Nothing is as it seems, and Gray comes across plenty of red herrings. Is Ian a well-meaning, concerned partner, or is something more sinister going on? He is, after all, an incredibly self-involved doctor — Isabel’s disappearance is something that has happened to him, and he seems more interested in getting his dog back. And what about Isabel’s friends? They paint interesting and different pictures of Isabel, whose past also seems murky.

Meanwhile, it looks like Gray’s past might be catching up with her. Constantly looking over her shoulder, Gray’s investigation into Isabel’s disappearance takes some diversions as she comes to grips with the fact that she may need to confront a painful past. If not, it could have deadly consequences. The novel deals with domestic abuse quite well — the way victims rationalize it, convince themselves it is “their fault”, allowing the cycle to continue for too long, and its long-lasting impact. There are a few intense, horrifying scenes.

Hall is a very good writer, and her characters feel very well-constructed and real. Sometimes they make… interesting choices, which didn’t always make sense. Gray’s romantic life isn’t a normal one for the genre, as past traumas have clearly left scars and an void in her soul. The fact that Gray is a newly-minted PI was also a welcome element, as she is still making her way in the industry and figuring out the rules and options available to her. She adapts quickly, making some innovative and interesting decisions, employing some tactics that could go very wrong but are luckily pulled off with aplomb. There’s some good tension, and reveals come thick and fast towards the end of the book. I only figured it out shortly before Hall presents the big reveal, and I thought it was well done.

It’s not clear if this is the start of a new series or a stand-alone, but I would certainly be interested in reading another novel starring Grayson Sykes.

*

Rachel Howzell Hall’s And Now She’s Gone is due to be published by Forge Books in North America and in the UK, on September 22nd, 2020.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

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