A man whose girlfriend disappeared more than a decade ago suspects she may still be alive.
Twelve years ago, Finn McQuaid’s girlfriend, Layla Gray, disappeared without a trace while they visited a rest stop while on holiday in France. He was eventually cleared as a suspect and is shocked when Exeter-based police detective Tony Heddon contacts him with the news that an ex-neighbor of Finn and Layla’s claims to have seen her outside of their old cottage in Devon. Finn gets another surprise when he arrives at the home he shares with, wait for it, Layla’s sister Ellen —now his fiancee—whom he evidently bonded with while mourning Layla’s disappearance. Finn, who narrates, makes it clear that Ellen is no Layla and constantly tries to convince himself that he truly (really!) loves her. Now she's found a little Russian nesting doll on the sidewalk in front of their house, similar to a doll that was found at the place where Layla disappeared. Then the dolls begin appearing everywhere, and Finn starts getting some pretty strange emails that may be from Layla herself. Could she be alive, and if so, what happened all those years ago? As the emails get more ominous, Finn falls all over himself chasing the clues and offers insights into his past with the complicated Layla. Paris (The Breakdown, 2017, etc.) quickly ramps up this short novel’s paranoia and tension; Finn is the consummate unreliable narrator—or is he? But Finn is largely two-dimensional, and Ellen is little more than a prop. Although Paris seeds the tale with plenty of clues, the denouement takes a turn that will stretch the reader's credulity to the limit, and beyond.