Before He Vanished by Debra Webb

Before He Vanished by Debra Webb
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (256 pgs)
Heat: Sensual
Rated: 3 stars
Reviewed by Poppy

His disappearance changed her life forever.

Twenty-five years ago, Halle Lane’s best friend vanished from their Tennessee town. When a childhood photo brings Liam Hart to Winchester, Halle is certain the man is the same child who vanished. Now Liam seeks out Halle to help him investigate the circumstances of his mysterious past. Can Liam and Halle uncover the truth before a killer buries all traces of the boy Halle loved—and the man he may have become—forever?

I grabbed this book because I really love the author. I’ve read many books by her before and I was excited to give this one a try. The storyline was intriguing: a 25 year-old mystery of “the lost boy” from Winchester, TN.
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There is a previous mystery mentioned at the start of this book, so I’m guessing it’s part of a series (likely written by different authors, as Harlequin tends to do). That said, I never felt as if I was missing anything. Really, the two main characters, Halle and Liam, are who we have featured about 95% of the time, so it doesn’t have an ensemble feel to it. I certainly wasn’t lost at all and it doesn’t have a lead in to another mystery, so it’s solidly a standalone.

I like Halle a lot. She was besties with the boy who disappeared, and some of the story is told in brief flashbacks where you can tell how close they were, even as very young children. She never could completely move on with her life because of his disappearance. It affected things, including her failed marriage.

Liam took some time to grow on me. I understand his confusion and denial, but sometimes he came across as throwing a temper tantrum instead of handling things like an adult who’s also a very successful businessman. Some of the story was very obvious and he wouldn’t accept anything, even things that clearly were factual and true. I get that it meant his entire life was a lie, but he was occasionally cruel in his behavior, figuratively slapping Halle with his words.

I also didn’t feel chemistry between them as adults. The funny thing was, in the flashbacks they were so close and easy with each other…I could tell if they’d been allowed to grow up they would have always been close. It was during those scenes I could absolutely believe they’d fall in love and be together forever. But as adults, Liam spent so much time being angry around Halle, I struggled with their relationship, and the HEA ending didn’t feel believeable.

The mystery was decent, though, and although I figured out much of it, the actual complete truth was something I didn’t see. Wanting to see how it all played out kept me turning pages. And, like all of the author’s books, the writing was vivid and evocative, allowing images to play out in my mind as I read the words.

So, while this may not have been Ms. Webb’s strongest book (in my opinion), it’s certainly entertaining and I’m glad I read it. And, I’m definitely excited to try whatever she has coming out next.

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