A husband, horrified at his beloved wife's disappearance, begins to question their entire marriage, and his very reality, in Bell’s assured debut.
Alexandra and Marc Southwood have a wonderful marriage of 13 years and two beautiful little girls, Charlotte and Lizzie. When Alex doesn’t come home one night, Marc is flummoxed. The North Yorkshire Police aren’t immediately concerned, but when she hasn’t returned a day later and they uncover her bloody clothing, Marc fears the worst. As the police investigate, they turn up shocking things that Marc never knew about Alex, leading him to do some investigating of his own. The book is narrated entirely by Alex: she makes it clear that what she’s writing, presumably while in captivity, are guesses about Marc’s actions based on how well she knows him as well as her access to things like a recording of Marc's phone call to the police and his credit card statement; she also gives us glimpses into the early days of their marriage. Interspersed with Alex's narration are letters from Amelia Heldt, an old friend and performance artist in New York who expresses an undeniable yearning for Alex. Bell paints a convincing portrait of a woman struggling with society’s tendency to put a man’s needs and desires over those of women and the guilt that accompanies a mother’s longing for fulfillment outside of marriage and children. Alex is passionate and complex, and her almost aggressive idealism can grow tiresome, but her yearning to be something “more” is palpable, leading her to blur the lines between life and art. For readers into controversial performance art, which Alex especially admires, and art in general, there’s a lot to chew on, but even if not, the truth behind Alex’s disappearance is a doozy, and the finale is satisfying while offering plenty of food for thought. Is Alex an unreliable narrator? Of course she is, but this is no bait and switch. Bell gives us all the clues and dares us to follow them to the shocking end.
This smart, mirror maze of a thriller bristles with sharp edges, twisting familiar Gone Girl themes into Bell’s own intense creation.