Alice Lake sees a man sitting alone on a beach in the rain and invites him into her home. He has lost his memory. When Lily’s new husband doesn’t come home from work, she goes to the police for help and discovers he has a false name. A family from Croydon take a traditional English holiday by the sea. These are the three storylines in I Found You by Lisa Jewell. The common denominator is location: a northern seaside town called Ridinghouse Bay.
Two inter-connected themes run throughout I Found You. Memory – the fugue of the man on the beach, and the dementia suffered by Alice’s parents – and identity, disguised, mistaken, forgotten. Jewell is so good at writing believable characters, good at exploring human nature in a simple, accessible way. And though there is evil in this story, there is also good, kindness, humanity, heart.
The menace is subtle, building slowly from the beginning even when the connections are unclear. It’s just a feeling. Gray watches his younger sister being chatted up by Mark, an older teenager, and feels uneasy: ‘There was something just off about him. Something shadowy and cruel. There were too many angles in his face. Too much thought behind each gesture, each word, each action. Even his hair colour was too uniform, Gray felt, as though he could tug at it and mark’s whole face would come off to reveal his true identity, like a Scooby Doo villain.’
Alice is too easy to trust, it has got her into trouble before. But her least-trusting dog likes the man from the beach, who her youngest daughter names ‘Frank’. But even Frank doesn’t know if he is trustworthy. How much do you need to know about someone before you trust them? Is it dangerous to rely on instinct? Or is that the most reliable test?
Two things in the story rang untrue for me – the police today use mobile phone records and CCTV to quickly trace missing people; and the behaviour of some characters in the intervening years seems far-fetched. But that aside, this is a satisfying puzzle to solve.
Read my review of The Girls, Lisa Jewell’s first thriller.
‘I Found You’ by Lisa Jewell [UK: Arrow] Buy now
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