The Missing Person's Guide to Love, By Susanna Jones

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The Independent Culture

Susanna Jones writes in a plain, pellucid style, and uses it to tell a dark story. Isabel, a woman in her 30s who lives in Istanbul with her Turkish husband and daughter, returns to the town where she grew up for the funeral of an old friend, Owen. She and Owen did time for an arson attack in their teens; worse, Julia, a schoolfriend of theirs, had disappeared shortly before that, never to be seen again. Isabel uses her return as an opportunity to investigate exactly what happened to Julia, and whether Owen could have had something to do with her vanishing. At the same time, the reader gradually gets the sense that there is something unconfessed in her own past.

Jones evokes a sense of mystery and strangeness with the lightest of touches, and casts doubt on the reliability of her narrator in a manner reminiscent of Paul Auster. Experimental, teasing but always utterly readable, this novel will keep you guessing all the way through its 278 pages.