Why Didn't You Come for Me?
by Diane Janes
Cover Artist: Photo: Claire Hartley
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Soho Constable Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781569479407
Date: 17 May 2011 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Jo's life has been very tragic. After escaping an abusive childhood, she marries Dominic Ashton and gives birth to Lauren. While they are vacationing in the ocean resort of Devon, Lauren mysteriously disappears, her stroller found at the bottom of a cliff. Later, Dominic's corpse is found at the same location. Hoping to forget her past, Jo marries Marcus Handley and moves to the isolated country hamlet of Easter Bridge. Their cottage is aptly named The Hideaway; however, Jo can't hide forever. Nearly ten years have past but someone keeps sending her postcards with Lauren's baby photo on them and ominous messages: I still have her. She also finds sea shells, reminding her of the souvenir shop from which Lauren disappeared. As the weather becomes colder and the cottage walls begin closing in, Jo grows more paranoid. Someone, she feels, is constantly watching her--someone who wants her dead.
Diane Janes's Why Didn't You Come for Me? is destined to become a classic mystery in the missing persons genre. With its tragic characters, atmospheric setting and shocking, downbeat ending, this novel played havoc on my nerves. After reading it, I thought I'd need a sedative. Not since Nancy Harmon of Where Are the Children? have I felt more sorrow and pity for a female protagonist. In fact, Janes writes like a British version of Mary Higgens Clark. Both women write mystery novels that are psychologically horrifying. Dark deeds from the past come back to haunt the female heroines; strangers, intent on destroying them, are watching and waiting for that right moment to strike. Both Clark and Janes know how to build suspenseful novels that grip the reader. Their titles alone are provocative. Why Didn't You Come For Me? provokes a plethora of horrifying images of an abandoned child begging to be rescued.
The setting for Janes's second novel (her first being The Pull of the Moon) is the isolated countryside of Cumbria. Many tourists embark on hiking expeditions in this region of North West England. During most of the plot, the weather is unseasonably cold, rainy and dreary. The type of weather that causes the suicide rate to increase. However, the climax occurs during the Christmas holidays, which is my favorite time of the year. I love to read mystery and horror novels that have festive Christmas settings. Unfortunately, poor Jo isn't in a celebratory mood. Her paranoia is growing. Her husband is spending more time with his attractive business partner, Melissa Timpson, and the intrusive neighbors of Easter Bridge are learning more about her sordid past. Jo's stepson Sean despises her and Nerys, her closest friend, is on a world tour and can only be reached via email. She can't go to the police because they think she's crazy.
Why Didn't You Come for Me? has an extremely depraved villain. Kidnapping or murdering a child is depraved enough, but sending taunting, harassing postcards to a parent of the victim is unspeakably cruel. The villain loves to see Jo suffer. Watching her emotional disintegration tore at my heart. I couldn't help but quickly turn the pages of this intriguing novel in hopes of learning the kidnapper's identity; most of all, I wanted to know whether or not Lauren was still alive. Though not perfect, Jo is a likeable person who has led a very difficult life consisting of a long string of tragic events. Her first husband, Dominic, once said to her: "How much bad luck can you have in a single life?" Furthermore, I have to admire Jo's determination to never lose hope in finding Lauren.
Neither a blood-drenched noir or a charming cozy, Why Didn't You Come for Me? is a sophisticated psychological thriller that is truly terrifying. Having a child abducted is a mother's worst nightmare; it can happen to anyone. This novel will definitely make the reader keep a closer eye on his/her children. Every day, children disappear; many are either found dead or never seen again. Ask John Walsh, the creator of America's Most Wanted. The "not knowing" is the worst part. According to this novel, the parents of a missing child are haunted for the rest of their lives. Why Didn't You Come for Me? is highly recommended for fans of psychological suspense who don't relish a tremendous amount of blood and guts. It is especially recommended for fans of mysteries involving missing and exploited children. Gerrie Ferris Finger's The End Game, is also highly recommended; it involves the abduction of two children who are to be sold by a human trafficking ring.