Bonfire Night. A missing girl.
Anna only takes her eyes off Laurel for a second. She thought Laurel was following her mum through the crowds. But in a heartbeat, Laurel is gone.
Laurel’s parents are frantic. As is Anna, their nanny. But as the hours pass, and Laurel isn’t found, suspicion grows.
Someone knows what happened to Laurel. And they’re not telling.
I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review.
Everyone has secrets, in this fast-paced psychological thriller. Easy to read, it has a compelling plot, with many twists, and whilst there are clues, many of these just lead the reader astray, rather than focusing on the true antagonist.
A child abduction, has a profound effect on the parents, the child’s nanny and the community as a whole. This story is authentically written, with believable police procedures, and community involvement.
Against this setting, the story reveals two parents, who are riddled with guilt and secrets. A nanny, who is not what she seems to be, and three strangers whose behaviour is suspect.
Suspense is built up slowly and intertwined with an omnipresent sense of menace. There are no graphic descriptions in this, but the inference is there, and the reader fears for the child’s safety.
Anna is a well-written unreliable protagonist, she is hiding and keeping secrets, but she appears devoted to the child, so can her point of view be trusted? Fran and Dominic, the parents are career-driven and self-absorbed.
The final chapters have many revelations, and the ending is both, a moral dilemma and a triumph.
Extract from ‘Have You Seen Her’ – Lisa Hall
The fire crackles as the flames leap into the frigid November air, sending out showers of sparks. The wooden pallets that have been piled high by volunteering parents, eagerly giving up their Saturday afternoon, crumple and sag as they burn. The guy – the star of this cold, clear Bonfire Night – is long gone now, his newspaper-stuffed belly and papier mâché head only lasting a matter of seconds, the crowd cheering as his features catch alight, feeding the frenzy of the flames.
My breath steams out in front of me, thick plumes of white that match the smoke that rises from the bonfire, but I am not cold, my hands are warm and my cheeks flushed pink. The crowd of parents, teachers and children, five or six deep in some places, that gathers in the muddy field behind the school are transfixed as the first of the fireworks shoots into the sky, before sending a spectacular display of colours raining down through the night air. I watch as she keeps her gaze fixed onto the display, the heat of the bonfire casting an orange glow across her features, her hat pushed back on her head, so her view isn’t obstructed.
For a moment I feel a tiny twinge of guilt – after all, none of this is really her fault – before I remember why I’m doing this, and I bat it away impatiently. All I need to do now is wait. Wait for the realisation to dawn on her face, for the fear to grip her heart and make her stomach flip over as she realises what has happened. For her to realise that Laurel is gone.
‘Here.’ Fran thrusts a polystyrene cup of mulled wine into my hand, fragrant steam curling into the cold November air. I don’t drink – not even cheap mulled wine with the alcohol boiled out of it – something I’ve told her repeatedly for the past three years that I’ve worked for her as a nanny, but she never takes any notice.
‘Thanks.’ I cup my hands around the warm plastic and let the feeble heat attempt to thaw out my cold fingers. Another firework shoots into the air, blue and white sparks showering across the sky, and a gasp rises from the crowd. Fran sips at her wine, grimacing slightly, before pushing her hat back on her head so she can see properly. She fumbles in her pocket, drawing out a slightly melted chocolate bar. ‘I got this for Laurel,’ she says, the foil wrapper glinting in the reflected glow from the giant bonfire behind the cordon in front of us.
‘Laurel?’ I say, frowning slightly. Laurel is a nightmare to get to bed if she has sweets this late in the evening, Fran knows that. Although, it’ll be my job to tussle Laurel into bed all hyped up on sugar, not Fran’s. I glance down, expecting to see her tiny frame in front of us, in the position she’s held all evening. She dragged us to the very edge of the cordon as soon as we arrived at the field behind the school, determined that we wouldn’t miss a second of the Oxbury Primary School bonfire and fireworks display.
‘Yes, for Laurel – you know, my daughter,’ Fran says impatiently, thrusting the chocolate towards me. She follows my gaze, and frowns slightly, biting down on her lip, before she opens her mouth to speak. ‘Where is she?’
I turn, anxiously scanning the crowds behind us, the faces of parents, family members and teachers that have all come out in their droves to watch the display. Laurel isn’t there. She isn’t in front of me, in the tiny pocket of space she carved out for herself, and she isn’t behind me either. I turn back to Fran, trying to ignore the tiny flutter in my chest.
‘I thought she went with you?’ I say, the cup of mulled wine now cooling quickly in the chilly night air, a waft of cinnamon rising from the cup and making my stomach heave. ‘With me?’ Fran’s eyes are wide as she glances past me, searching for Laurel.
‘Yes, with you.’ I have to stop myself from snapping at her, worry nipping at my insides. ‘You said you were going to get us a drink and pop to the loo, and Laurel said, “Hang on, Mummy, I’m coming with you.”’
‘She did? Are you sure?’
‘Well, reasonably sure,’ I say, a delicate twinge of frustration whispering at my breastbone. ‘I mean, I saw her follow after you because I shouted out to her to keep hold of your hand.’ There are hundreds, if not thousands of people here tonight, the display well known in the small patch of Surrey that we live in. It’s a regular annual event arranged by the PTA, and it’s well attended every year.
‘She didn’t,’ Fran whispers, her eyes meeting mine as the blood drains from her face. ‘She didn’t hold my hand. She didn’t catch up with me at all.’