Thank you to Boldwood Books for a digital copy of The Scarlet Dress to read and review via NetGalley. The book was published in February 2021 and I’m sharing my mini review today.
Alice Lang was wearing her favourite scarlet dress when she disappeared twenty-five years ago, and her memory still casts a long shadow.
In the long, hot summer of 1995, twenty-two-year-old Alice Lang rents a caravan on a holiday park on the outskirts of the lively holiday resort of Severn Sands. She befriends Marnie, a shy, damaged little girl whose father is the park’s caretaker and whose mother died a few months earlier. Will, whose mother runs the bar, falls in love with Alice, and is unbearably jealous of anyone else she sees. Tensions rise until one evening Alice disappears from her caravan. She’s never seen again, and only her scarlet dress is found washed up on the shore.
A quarter of a century later, the town is run down and nobody comes there anymore. Mr and Mrs deVillars, former owners of the holiday park, have passed the failing business onto their son Guy, who promptly sells the land for development. Builders clearing the land to create an expanse of executive homes uncover human bones. It has to be Alice.
Will and Marnie’s lives were entirely shaped by what happened that summer, and now Alice has been found, they must struggle to pin down their memories, to escape the secrets of the past, the lies they told and the unbearable guilt they’re both carrying.
They need to find out what happened to Alice. Who killed her? And why?
This is the first book I’ve read by Louise Douglas and I look forward to reading more in the future (I have The House by the Sea on my Kindle ready to start).
As the synopsis tells us, Alice went missing 25 years ago and her body has finally been found buried at the holiday park. So why was her scarlet dress found by the estuary? Who could have wanted to harm Alice – a visitor to the area?
The story follows Will and Marnie, both of them were severely traumatised by the disappearance of Alice. Will has been trying to solve the mystery for 25 years, having fallen in love with Alice that summer when he was just 19 and Marnie is scared about what happened to Alice, who had been kind to her during an already difficult year.
The main characters have to deal with the press and police interest into the events of 25 years ago. Will had always blamed Guy, but was it Guy? Who was the mystery person that Alice was going to share a bottle of champagne with on the evening she disappeared?
The setting seems very dark and drab, as the holiday site park has become a muddy building site. As Will and Marnie start to think about what happened during the three weeks Alice stayed at the holiday park, they start to remember conversations and events. How many secrets could they uncover?
I enjoyed how the story evolved. Although I had worked out who Alice was and why she may have been murdered quite early in the story, I didn’t know who the killer was until near the end of the story. Happy to recommend this book and I look forward to reading more by Louise Douglas in the future.