By Ekta R. Garg
October 14, 2020
Release date: October 13, 2020
Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars
When a teen goes missing in a London suburb, all eyes turn to a local man who is single and a loner. Circumstances in his life make him look guilty of harming her and possibly others, but he’s just as baffled as everyone else about what happened. Author Lisa Jewell builds a plot that spools out a little too far at times in her newest book Invisible Girl.
Despite having to move out of her house for a year, Cate Fours is excited. While renovations on their home are being completed, Cate and the family get to live in the suburb of Hampstead. She’s always eyed the village, wondering what it would be like to be a part of that crowd. Now she gets to find out, and she can’t wait.
The move, she thinks, will also be a reset for the family, particularly her and her husband, Roan. In the previous year, Cate suspected Roan of cheating on her. She went to long lengths to find out the truth, which included snooping through his work computer. That action crossed a line for Roan. His work as a therapist for adolescents means he stores highly sensitive information. Cate’s distrust led to them discussing separation, but they eventually moved past it.
They’ve also now moved to Hampstead. Cate tries to focus on the positives, but she can’t help noticing one of their neighbors across the street. The odd man lives with an older woman and doesn’t really interact with anyone. He makes Cate nervous, and after her daughter, Georgia, complains that he was following her home one evening Cate’s senses are on high alert.
The man is Owen Pick, and his new neighbors are bugging him. But then Owen has struggled to understand the female set his entire life. He’s never even had a relationship, and he doesn’t see that status changing any time soon.
Then the unthinkable happens: two of Owen’s female students report him for sexual misconduct. He tries to defend himself, but his case is weak. Then he stumbles across an online community he didn’t even know existed, one made up of men exactly like him: white, single, and frustrated with all of the binding rules society has placed on them. The more he gets pulled into the community, the more their beliefs make sense.
What doesn’t make sense is why the police would arrest him for the disappearance of 16-year-old Saffyre Maddox. He didn’t even know the girl. As the police push him for answers, some pieces of the mysterious puzzle start to fall into place. The only problem is that most of them point to him as Saffyre’s abductor.
Saffyre doesn’t know Owen, but she certainly knows Roan. Saffyre used to be Roan’s patient. After three years, he released her from treatment. Even though she agreed to it at the time, Saffyre knows the truth: she’s far from fixed and she desperately wants to be. She starts shadowing Roan and makes some startling discoveries of her own.
Author Lisa Jewell pulls together three storylines into a plot that, at times, leaves the three strands with too much slack. On their own, each set of circumstances are compelling. Because the characters do cross paths from time to time, even if they’re not always aware of it, readers are set up to expect a collision of conflicts. They’re made to wait longer than the genre typically presents, which might make some impatient for the biggest piece to be revealed: what happened to Saffyre.
The online world that Owen discovers—that of incels or involuntary celibates—drops into the background as other plot points become more prominent. With three main characters to handle, Jewell can only give so much space to each one. The story’s progression makes sense, but readers might wish she’d cut to the chase a little sooner.
The book’s resolution, by comparison, seems a little too pat. Everything gets straightened out or explained in seemingly record time. With all the tension that preceded it, the ending feels almost like a different book.
Still, Jewell includes a clever twist that most won’t be able to predict, and most of the character interactions feel authentic and grounded in a world that’s lived-in. Those looking for an “it” book for the fall might want to check this one out. Otherwise, I recommend readers Borrow Invisible Girl.