Three lonely people meet when their lives are in upheaval and learn they are also connected by a haunting 20-year-old mystery.
Single mother Alice offers a stranger sitting on the beach in the rain a windbreaker, and, upon learning he has no recollection of who he is or how he got there, she invites him to stay in her guesthouse. Her children give him the name Frank, and Alice works to help him regain his memory and learn how he ended up in the north of England. Near London, Lily, a young wife from the Ukraine who has been living in England with her new husband, panics when he fails to return home. After the local police inform Lily his passport is fake, she begins to search for him to determine whom she married and why he suddenly abandoned her. These two stories set in present-day Britain are interwoven with a third story set in 1993 of a family's annual vacation to the beach, which takes a troubling and ominous turn after the 15-year-old daughter, Kirsty, begins dating a local 19-year-old guy, Mark. As Jewell's (The Girls in the Garden, 2016, etc.) novel progresses, the tensions in each story heighten as the characters must confront questions of whether we ever truly know other people or if we always keep part of ourselves hidden away. While these are not new questions, Jewell's page-turner approaches them in a riveting manner. Its numerous twists avoid predictability, and the novel is well-paced as it weaves the three narratives together. Toward the end of the novel, as Alice, Frank, and Lily meet and begin to learn who has brought them together, the plot moves a bit too quickly for a full explanation of everyone’s identity and motivations. Yet even these too-short character back stories serve to circle back and reinforce the novel’s central question: how much does knowing a person in the present count for?
Dark and moody, this is a mystery with substance.