I almost knocked this down to two stars because of some fairly graphic depictions of sadistic torture and the implausibility of certain nefarious goings-on that involved a wide-ranging conspiracy of well-connected people being involved in something very disturbing and complicit in covering that thing up.
However--I kept wanting to move forward to find out how the story resolved, and I cared about the main characters. Proceed with caution, though, especially if the first part of my opening sentence sounds like something you feel you need to avoid.
More than 20 years before, a 19-year-old college student named Julia Carroll disappeared. Her case was never solved, and local law enforcement seemed to be satisfied with the assumption that she left of her own accord, to quietly begin a life in some other part of the world, without notifying her parents, sisters, or friends.
Julia's disappearance shattered her family. Her father Sam became entirely focused on solving the case, while her mother Helen moved between checking out altogether and deciding that moving on was the only way to fulfill the needs of their surviving daughters, Lydia and Claire. Lydia drifted into drug addiction, while Claire became a people pleaser, focused on being popular but not standing out too much. Lydia has been estranged from Helen and Claire since she made an accusation about Claire's then-boyfriend (later husband), Paul Scott.
As the book opens, Claire has just had removed the ankle monitor she has had to wear following an assault charge and plea bargain. She and Paul, a ridiculously successful architect, are meeting in a bar to celebrate, but after he is uncharacteristically late, they are attacked in an alley, where he has exhibited unfamiliar behavior, and they experience an attack that leaves Paul dying as Claire watches helplessly.
Soon after the incident, Claire begins to discover clues that Paul had another side she'd been unaware of, and which aligns with Lydia's accusations years before. As she begins to rethink everything she thought she knew, she contacts Lydia, who has a teenage daughter of her own, and has turned her life around since her drug-using days. Neither is initially sure they can trust the other, but soon their sibling loyalty is reestablished.
What might Julia's disappearance have to do with the recent disappearance of 16-year-old Anna Kilpatrick? Are there clues to be found in the journals that Sam Carroll left behind? What secrets about Paul will the sisters uncover?
As suggested above, this book had me hooked on finding out what happens. Although I started with the audiobook, I ended up switching to the Kindle version to progress faster. I will say there is a twist I didn't see coming, and then I almost smacked myself on the head, because I've read enough thrillers where that kind of twist occurs. But I won't say anything further about that (working to keep this spoiler-free).