The Castaways (2021) by Lucy Clarke

Two years ago, sisters Lori and Erin were heading for the holiday of a lifetime in an exclusive Fijian resort, when an argument the night before the final flight to the resort led to Erin not turning up at the airport. Lori chose to go alone, on a plane with only a handful of passengers – a plane that disappeared without trace.

Erin has been obsessed with finding out what happened to her sister’s flight ever since – there had been no contact, no messages, no hint of anything, until a man appears in Fiji, a man who holds the secret of what happened. Somehow, someway, the pilot of the plane has reappeared – but what happened to the remainder of the flight? Is there any possibility that there are other survivors?

So, that’s two books in a row with people being abandoned on an island, but there’s a world of difference between this and Body On The Island.

This is, structurally, a fairly typical modern thriller – sorry, Amazon, that’s “the most gripping, twisty crime thriller”. A dual narrative – Lori in the past on the island that the plane crashes on and Erin in the present investigating where the pilot came from – one in the first person, one in the third (what is it with that narrative structure, it seems to be everywhere these days?). The stories dovetail to the conclusion, with parallel beats in the plot as discoveries in the present occur with the relevant events in the past.

It’s a really well-written tale, with the stories of both women having depth to them – both characters feel real and as the stories unwind, I found myself invested in what happened to them. But – and I know that authors have little say in how Amazon markets their titles – but “the most gripping, twisty crime thriller” is considerably overstating things. Yes, there’s some crime involved, but it’s not really a whodunit (or if it is, it’s a very obvious one) and I can’t help feeling that the ending was rather inevitable rather than particularly surprising.

All in all, it’s a good book that I enjoyed, but I think fans of the classic mystery genre should look elsewhere. If you like modern personal thrillers though, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy this.

The Castaways is out now in ebook form and will be released in hardback on 18th March by HarperCollins. Many thanks for the review e-copy.

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