One Wednesday night, Kayla Cutler left Pete's Pizza to deliver three pizzas.
She never came back.
The thing is, though, the kidnapper got the wrong girl. At the last minute, bubbly, flirtatious Kayla switched nights with studious, shy Gabie Klug. It was Gabie that the kidnapper wanted. That the kidnapper still wants.
Gabie and her co-worker Drew Lyle are sure of it—when Drew took the order, the man specifically asked if "the girl with the Mini Cooper" would be working, which could have only referred to Gabie—but the police aren't interested in their theory.
So Gabie and Drew start investigating on their own. The closer they get to the mysterious John Robertson, the more danger they're in. And the closer John Robertson gets to Gabie, the more danger Kayla's in... after all, he only needs one girl in his "special room" at a time.
The Night She Disappeared is a straightforward—yet still tense—thriller. From chapter to chapter, the perspective shifts between the four main characters—Kayla and Drew, Gabie and John Robertson—as well as some of the minor ones, like the boys who stumbled on the crime scene and one of the divers who searches the Willamette River. The voices and perspectives are all distinctly different, and the short chapters—none more than three or four pages long—are interspersed with transcripts of 911 calls and police interviews, evidence slips, search warrants, and other documents related to the case.
Gabie's mixed feelings about the mistake—horror, guilt, and some amount of relief—are all very understandable, and her growing friendship/romance with Drew is believable. The technical details about the investigation (especially the methods of the dive team) are worked in naturally, and fans of procedural/forensic mysteries are bound to like those elements. Similarly, fans of The Mentalist will like the subplot that deals with the faker psychic lady. Oh, and it's worth noting that John Robertson is creepy as all get out, but while there's certainly an implied threat of sexual assault, nothing like that ever happens onscreen.
While it hasn't inspired any gushing on my part, I enjoyed it. I did have two issues, though, one more problematic than the other. Minor: the dialogue is a bit shaky in spots. Major: the detective assigned to the case is so unhelpful, so unwilling to follow up leads, so dismissive of Gabie and Drew's concerns, and so aggressive towards them that I found it hard to believe in him. Rather than a three-dimensional person, he was a character pulled straight out of the Police are Useless trope. Which was pretty glaring, especially when contrasted with the more complex characterization of the teenage characters.
Book source: Review copy from the publisher.