Book Reviews

The Return of Ellie Black by Emiko Jean

Many thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for my advanced copy of The Return of Ellie Black by Emiko Jean. This book is available May 7, 2024!

The Story

Detective Chelsey Calhoun’s life is turned upside down when she gets the call Ellie Black, a girl who disappeared years earlier, has resurfaced in the woods of Washington state—but Ellie’s reappearance leaves Chelsey with more questions than answers.

It’s been twenty years since Detective Chelsey Calhoun’s sister vanished when they were teenagers, and ever since she’s been searching: for signs, for closure, for other missing girls. But happy endings are rare in Chelsey’s line of work.

Then a glimmer: local teenager Ellie Black, who disappeared without a trace two years earlier, has been found alive in the woods of Washington State.

But something is not right with Ellie. She won’t say where she’s been, or who she’s protecting, and it’s up to Chelsey to find the answers. She needs to get to the bottom of what happened to Ellie: for herself, and for the memory of her sister, but mostly for the next girl who could be taken—and who, unlike Ellie, might never return.

The debut thriller from New York Times bestselling author Emiko Jean, The Return of Ellie Black is both a feminist tour de force about the embers of hope that burn in the aftermath of tragedy and a twisty page-turner that will shock and surprise you right up until the final page.

My Thoughts

I am always wary of a best-selling author suddenly writing a different genre. The Return of Ellie Black makes the second one I’ve read recently that would qualify (The Five Year Lie is the other). I mean, it takes a lot to “step away” from what you’ve done so well to try something new. Will it tarnish your reputation? Will loyal readers give up on you, thinking you’ve abandoned them?

Let me tell you something. Emiko Jean has reached a completely new audience very successfully. I was pleased with The Return of Ellie Black! It kept me engaged. Plus, after reading The Reappearance of Rachel Price, it’s nice to see books where people come back! They’re not depressing and lost forever.

I’m not going to compare the books because they were very different. Both very good books. You also know that I won’t be giving you any spoilers in this review either.

With that being said, Ellie Black took a bit of a cult-ish turn, which I appreciated. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that people can have such an effect on others that they’ll give up everything to follow them. This wasn’t quite as severe, but it had that vibe in places.

As a first step into writing thrillers, Jean did well. There were bits and pieces that felt a bit too convenient, and the ending was just a bit rushed, but it was overall enjoyable. Well, as enjoyable as a book about abduction with cultish tendencies can be. I wish that some of the items that were revealed in the end had been developed just a little bit more.

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