‘The Girl Who Left’ by Jenny Blackhurst | @JennyBlackhurst @canelo_co | #20BooksOfSummer

Author : Jenny Blackhurst
Title : The Girl Who Left
Pages : 300
Publisher : Canelo
Publication date : June 29, 2022


When five-year-old Elsie Button was snatched from a garden in a sleepy town on the Welsh island of Anglesey, and a local man later confessed, it sent shockwaves through the tight-knit community. How could one of their own do such a thing? Especially when his own little girl was the same age – and the victim’s best friend.

Kathryn and her family left under the cloak of darkness one night, unable to bear the shame, and the anger of their neighbours. She hardly remembers that time. Now, she suffers the consequences of living under an assumed name, always looking over her shoulder. Her dad has not spoken a word to her since he went to prison. She is haunted by the question: why did he kill Elsie?

When another child is taken from the same garden, twenty-five years to the day of Elsie’s murder, Kathryn is determined that this time she’ll be on the right side. She’ll join the search and atone for her father’s deed, and maybe, just maybe, get the answers she wants. But she’s not prepared for the long memory of the locals, nor the risks of going back. Not everyone on the island wants the truth to come out, and they’ll go to extreme lengths to stop that from happening. 


I read and enjoyed all of Jenny Blackhurst’s books in the past and then, Jenny disappeared due to personal issues and I lost track of her. Sorry, Jenny! So when I accidentally came across ‘The Girl Who Left‘, I got a little overexcited and possibly let out a sound only dogs can hear. Because Jenny is back and then some!

Every month, Kathryn sets out to visit her father in prison. Every month she asks him the exact same question. “Where is she?” Every time her father refuses to answer. You see, Kathryn’s father was convicted of the kidnapping and murder of five year old “cute as a button” Elsie Button on Anglesey twenty-five years ago, even though her body was never found. These events have obviously had an enormous impact on Kathryn. To be honest, she’s a bit of a screw-up. Can’t hold down a job, can’t form decent relationships and likes to get behind the wheel of her car when she’s had too much to drink. Kathryn thinks that closure and knowing where Elsie’s body is buried will lift this dark cloud from above her head and she might just be able to lead a normal life. Why won’t her father tell her where Elsie is, when he’s already confessed to everything else?

On the day of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Elsie’s disappearance, another young child called Abby vanishes from the same house on the same island. Coincidence? If Abby was taken, is there a copycat afoot? Is there a monster in the woods behind the house? Was Kathryn’s father wrongly convicted? So many answers, very little questions. To find out more, Kathryn decides to head back to Anglesey. But the island residents are a tight-knit community, they look out for their own, and they don’t for one second hide the fact that they don’t want Kathryn anywhere near their island.

Even a blind bat can pick up on the suspicious behaviour of some of the residents, but if they are really hiding something what on earth could it possibly be? What really happened to Elsie all those years ago? And where is Abby? Then there are Kathryn’s family members who also don’t seem to be acting like regular folks. Before you know it, you have a long list of people you wouldn’t trust if they were the last person on the planet. The investigation into the disappearance of Abby is led by DI Maggie Grant and I’d love to see her and her team again in another story some time, if someone can make that happen.

But ‘The Girl Who Left‘ isn’t just about solving these mysteries. There is more of a thought-provoking layer to it when the author tackles the impact of a killer’s acts on the family that is left behind. A wife who has to come to terms with the fact that the man she loved so much killed a little girl who was the same age as their own daughter. A wife who surely must have known the kind of monster her husband was. A son who was forced to grow up quickly and feels it is his duty to take care of the family. And then Kathryn herself, who can’t seem to figure out what to do with her life at all. A family who is forced to move time and again, change their names, doesn’t know who to trust or even if they can ever trust anyone at all, and a family who constantly has to defend itself against public scrutiny and a relentless media. Even decades later. I can, thankfully, not even begin to imagine.

I did figure some things out and I will never not be smug about that, for your information. However, that didn’t bother me at all because I felt ‘The Girl Who Left‘ was just that good. It’s incredibly addictive, engrossing, compelling and it had me swiping the pages so fast I almost pulled a muscle in my finger. It is at times also surprisingly witty. There were various moments where I chuckled, despite the rather dark topic. I flew through this story and enjoyed every minute of it. This, for me, is Jenny Blackhurst at her best and I’m thrilled that she’s back!

The Girl Who Left is available to buy! My thanks to the publisher for the review copy, which I received via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

20 Books of Summer : 4/20

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