Book Review: And Now She’s Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall

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.

Rachel Howzell Hall has produced a mystery novel that has a second mystery at its heart running throughout as a creeping undercurrent. And Now She’s Gone could have been produced as a pure mystery/private investigator story but ends but being something much bigger.

It opens with a haunting snippet from poet Emily Dickinson:

One need not be a chamber to be haunted,

One need not be a house;

The brain has corridors surpassing material place.

I found that to be very telling as the plot of the novel opened up more and more to me. Private Investigator Grayson Sykes is given an assignment from her boss, Dominick Rader of Rader Consulting. One of Dominick’s friends, a Doctor named Ian O’Donnell, has hired the firm to find his missing girlfriend, Isabel Lincoln. As Grayson begins to dig into this case she starts to question why it took Ian four days to notice Isabel was gone. She also begins to wonder if Isabel was actually missing and not consciously running away from an allegedly abusive boyfriend.

Grayson actually receives a message from Isabel that reads: PLEASE LET ME BE MISSING! This hits a note deep within Grayson that wakes up some past feelings of her own. Throughout And Now She’s Gone there are flashback chapters featuring characters we do not know at the time which detail what appears to be a very abusive relationship that the girl is trying to get out of. Meanwhile, her boss Dominick or ‘Nick’ swears that his buddy Ian is a good guy and there must be some other reason outside of abuse that caused Isabel to run away. The deeper Grayson digs, the more and more we see her own mask slip off revealing a woman named Natalie Dixon.

Natalie has narrowly escaped a very abusive relationship many years earlier, one that even her friend Nick knew about and tried to save her from. It clearly left its mark and the PTSD she suffers from is apparent. Now, the reader must decide whether or not Grayson actually wants to solve the Isabel Lincoln disappearance or if her own past experience will prevent her from doing her duty in deference to saving a young woman from a fate she barely survived herself.

The mystery within a mystery that is And Now She’s Gone makes for a dynamic read. Author Rachel Howzell Hall has created a terrific character in Grayson Sykes who is sarcastic and quick-witted to the point where it is hard to recognize this as a defense mechanism for the wounds inflicted upon her. It really puts a new spin on the Private Investigator novel and will be a much talked about read in 2020.


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