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Book Review: The Reappearance of Rachel Price by Holly Jackson

Book Review: The Reappearance of Rachel Price by Holly Jackson

The mere mention of a new Holly Jackson novel is enough to grab the attention of any YA mystery reader but The Reappearance of Rachel Price is deserving of the hype. It surrounds the mysterious disappearance of titular wife and mother Rachel, and her even more mysterious reappearance over a decade later. A reappearance that just so happens to coincide with a film crew descending on the picturesque New Hampshire town of Gorham to film a documentary about the much talked about Price family.

The subject of Rachel Price is a difficult one for her family but it’s particularly tough for 18-year-old Bel, who’s lived her whole life in the shadow of her mother’s strange and sudden disappearance. Sixteen years ago, Bel was the sole witness to Rachel’s vanishing – not that she can remember anything from that fateful day. The Price family never knew if Rachel was kidnapped or if she simply decided to leave, abandoning her daughter and husband. They didn’t know if she was alive or dead. Bel was protected from the media frenzy by her tight-knit family, who tried their best to fill the space Rachel left when she disappeared. As a result, all Bel’s ever known is her small, shielded life with her doting dad Charlie, but the arrival of a film crew from England is about to change everything.

As filming for the documentary about Rachel’s disappearance gets underway, details of the unsolved case are dragged back into the present. Then the unthinkable happens. Rachel inexplicably reappears with an unbelievable story about what happened to her. She says she was kidnapped and kept captive for sixteen years, until one day her unknown abductor suddenly decided to let her go. Bel should be happy. After all, her mum is back and her broken family can finally be whole again. But Rachel’s reappearance seems to put everyone in the Price family on edge. And there’s something else bothering Bel, a niggling doubt that turns into an overwhelming hunch: Bel’s not entirely sure that Rachel is telling the truth…

One mistake was forgivable, it made sense. But two? Two felt like something else entirely. She smiled at Rachel and Rachel smiled back. It looked real, but what if it wasn’t? Bel couldn’t be sure, she could only trust the knot in her gut. And it told her what she wanted to hear. Rachel Price might be lying.

The Reappearance of Rachel Price is chiefly a mystery and it’s the kind of taut, suspenseful story that has you combing every line of dialogue for crafty hidden meanings or unintentional slip-ups that might reveal what really happened to Rachel. Because, right from the get-go, her story seems as suspicious to the reader as it is to Bel. If you’re a seasoned mystery reader or crime TV watcher, you’ll know that there’s always more to these stories than what’s on the surface, and half the fun is playing detective from an outsider’s perspective. We have the benefit of Bel’s insider perspective too, as she takes it upon herself to dig into Rachel’s distressing tale of kidnap and captivity. She was just a baby when Rachel disappeared and her mum is essentially a stranger to her. Their detached relationship allows Bel to observe Rachel and examine her story for inconsistencies, of which there are a few.

Aside from the main mystery of how and why Rachel suddenly disappeared and reappeared, there’s a much more emotional and much less sensational element to the story, and that’s the fractured family at the heart of it. Bel is incredibly protective of her small family and it instantly pits her against her estranged mum. Rachel is clearly desperate to reconnect with her daughter but Bel’s mission to prove that Rachel is lying about what happened to her turns their emerging relationship into a fraught battle of wits. All the while, there’s the camera crew filming the family’s uncomfortable reunion, something that snarky loner Bel capitalises on as she enlists the help of easy-going camera assistant Ash to help document her plight.

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Jackson cleverly utilises the true crime element, taking readers deep into the Price family’s past secrets and present mysteries. Each page is woven with an uncomfortable knot-in-your-stomach-forming tension, as it becomes increasingly obvious that something more sinister is lurking in the depths of Rachel’s already far-fetched story. As Bel discovers red-herrings and just as quickly unravels them, the real picture of Rachel’s disappearance begins to emerge, and the truth is more shocking than most readers could have imagined at the beginning of the book. By the time you get to the breathless final chapters of this cleverly plotted and twisty thriller, you’ll be perched on the very edge of your seat, with your heart firmly in your mouth.


The Reappearance of Rachel Price is published by Electric Monkey on 2 April 2024

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