by | Oct 16, 2020 | The Real Book Spy | 3 comments

by The Real Book Spy

If you’ve already read Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train . . . get ready for The Invisible Girl, the latest heart-pounding thriller from Lisa Jewell.

Like many other readers who suffered from serious book hangovers following the massive hits produced by Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins, I too struggled to find another thriller of physiological suspense that gripped me the way their books did. It didn’t matter how many times publishers slipped the word “girl” into their titles in an effort to capitalize off the mainstream success of those books (not to mention the featured films, both of which had successful box office runs), nothing could compare to Flynn’s unreliable narrator or Hawkins’ twisting tale that spun its way to a shock ending.

Then I found Lisa Jewell’s work.

My reading journey into her books started a few years ago, when her U.S. publisher sent me Watching You (2018), which I blew through in just a few short hours. Then came last year’s The Family Upstairs. In between those books, I went back and read as much of Jewell’s backlist as possible and became a huge fan of her work. It’s so simple to fall in love with her easy, smooth prose. And with the way she plots—well, you can’t ever just sit the book down and walk away. She simply doesn’t allow it, with each chapter pulling you deeper and deeper into her story. So, waiting on The Invisible Girl, I kind of felt like I knew what to expect, and was ready to sink my teeth into it the moment it arrived on my doorstep.

Here’s the thing with Lisa Jewell . . . never assume anything.

The Invisible Girl follows Owen Pick—a man whose life is suddenly falling apart—and his neighbors, the Fours family. Cate Fours, the matriarch of the family, is suspicious of Owen, who was recently accused of sexual misconduct and subsequently fired from his teaching position. As the story develops, that suspicion morphs to paranoia, especially after she is convinced Owen followed her daughter home from school one day. Then a young girl name Saffyre Maddox goes missing, and Cate becomes positively obsessed with Owen—who, it turns out, was the last person to see the girl alive and well.

Think you know where this one’s headed? Think again. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is quite what is seems here . . . which is what makes this book so incredibly fun to read! Picture Harlan Coben meets Gillian Flynn, and you’ve got The Invisible Girl, the latest can’t-miss thriller from one of the genre’s most talented writers.

by Lisa Jewell

When you read a book, it’s easy to assume that everything within that book is just as the author had planned it to be. It’s easy to imagine a large whiteboard with the story mapped out in flow charts and bubbles. And every time the author introduces a new character, you assume that the author always knew that that character was going to be there, and that this was the precise moment the author had planned for them to arrive. Obviously as a writer, I know that none of this is true, but still I get swept up into swallowing this magical illusion when I read other people’s books.

My latest book is called Invisible Girl. The title refers to one of the three main characters in the book, a seventeen-year-old named Saffron Maddox. The story revolves around her and her relationship with her therapist, Roan Fours. She hides in the shadows and watches her former therapist because she feels that her relationship with him has come to a close too soon, that she is not healed and she is not cured. She is a very intense, very real, very front of stage character. So clearly, I must have known that I’d be writing a book about her, right?


I was writing a book about another character, Roan Fours’ neighbour in fact; a loner called Owen Pick, thirty-three years old and a virgin. My working title for the book was Creep, because that was what I wanted to write about, that was what I wanted to explore. Owen Pick needed a counterpoint, he needed to be seen by someone who saw him as a threat in some way. So I gave him a family of neighbours freshly moved in, excited to be living somewhere smart and surprised to find their plush new neighbourhood playing host to a series of grim sex attacks carried out by a man in black. They see the odd man across the street and they make terrible assumptions about him. That was it. That was the book. That was what it was going to be.

In the early pages of the book, I randomly gave Roan Fours the job title of ‘child psychologist’, because it fitted in with the kind of family I wanted to portray them as; Roan’s wife, Cate is a former physiotherapist turned stay-at-home mum, they have two teenage children who go to state school, they are middle class but not rich, clever but not successful. So, like plucking a fruit from a tree, I looked into the boughs of my imagination for a job, any job, that might fit the brief and there it was. Child Psychologist. That’ll do, I thought. That’ll do.

Then I decided to engineer some marital discord into the Fours’ family dynamic – much more fun to write about an unhappy family than a happy family. And while writing a paragraph about Cate trying to uncover her husband’s suspected infidelity by going through his private affairs, I found myself writing the words “Saffyre, that was the name of the patient whose private records Cate had read through. Saffyre Maddox. She was fifteen years old at the time and had been self-harming since the age of ten.”

Saffyre Maddox. The name another random bit of fruit from the boughs of my mind. I didn’t know where it had come from but I knew I liked it. I wanted very much, I suddenly realised, to know more about this Saffyre Maddox. I wanted to know who she was and why she’d been self-harming and what had happened between her and Roan Fours behind the closed doors of his therapy room. So I started the next chapter and I called it Saffyre and I wrote the words “I was twelve and half years old the first time I met Roan Fours. I’d been cutting myself for more than two years by this stage.”

And there she was, immediate and three dimensional and pretty much demanding that I make my book be about her. I’d spent months imagining Owen Pick before I started to write him, but Saffyre just jumped in from nowhere at the very last minute and completely changed everything. A new character, a new direction, a plan for this novel thwarted, but made better.

Pretty ironic for a girl who wanted to be invisible. 😉

Thank you to The Real Book Spy and Lisa Jewell! We can’t wait to read The Invisible Girl.
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  1. Carla Neggers

    Can't wait to read this one! Indeed, never assume anything with a Lisa Jewell book.

  2. Lisa Black

    I read The Family Upstairs recently and before that, And Then She Was Gone. Loved them both!

  3. Rogue Women Writers

    What a great description of this intriguing new book! Cant wait to check it out – thanks!!!…Karna Small Bodman