The Scarlet Dress by Louise Douglas

About the book

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?

What I thought

The story is told in the present day from the points of view of both Marnie and Will. They both live with a big sense of guilt and regret due to the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Alice 25 years ago. What happened back then is gradually revealed as both Marnie and Will look back on that time often, with more and more of the mystery revealed to the reader.

It’s a very atmospheric book. Vivid descriptions of the setting, both the holiday park back in 1995 and the present day Severn Sands – a much quieter place with the holiday park in the process of being redeveloped for housing. Marnie’s story is a sad one all the way back to her childhood. After her mother’s death her father became very distant and Marnie was left to fend for herself much of the time. However Mrs deVillars, the owner of the Holiday park looked out for Marnie, as did Alice until her disappearance, which added to Marnie’s grief and loneliness. On the discovery of the human remains at the old Holiday Park, a now grown up Marnie with a daughter of her own, still wonders what happened to Alice on that fateful night of her disappearance and this new discovery brings bad memories flooding back.

Will comes back to Severn Sands when he hears of the discovery of the human bones at the old holiday site. He’s a writer and it has always been Will’s intention to write about the disappearance of Alice. Despite the 25 years since he left Severn Sands he has never got over losing Alice. He’s desperate to find out what happened to her and has his suspicions over who may have killed her.

I really enjoyed this book. It is quite a morose story but with a creepy atmosphere to it. Very gradually secrets are revealed which leads to a very tense ending. A fantastic book that had me engrossed. This is the first book I’ve read by this author but would definitely like to read more. Incidentally she has a new book out The Room in the Attic, again published by Boldwood Books. It’s out on 12 October in e-book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

♥ Happy Reading ♥

The book was published earlier this year and is available on Amazon in e-book format and paperback as well as through other retailers.

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