‘That’s the thing about our town: people only come here if they’re going somewhere else.’
One grey afternoon, high on the cliffs of Dover, two girls agree to help a stranger.
Within months, two of the three girls are dead.
In the years that follow, local legend grows around the events of that summer – and, with the one survivor refusing to speak, it seems the truth will never emerge. Until a documentary-maker arrives, determined to solve the mystery of the Dover Girls.
But some will stop at nothing to keep this town’s secrets…
Hi and welcome to my review of The Nowhere Place!
The Nowhere Place is set in Dover, which, according to one of the characters, is the ultimate nowhere place, a place people only ever come when they’re headed for somewhere else, never to stay. Definitely an attention-grabbing title, and those ominous clouds in combination with the cliffs on the cover made me think I was in for an atmospheric, maybe somewhat gloomy (in a good way) thriller with a definite sense of place, and whaddayaknow, sometimes you actually can judge a book by its cover!
In 2016, two teenage girls died and a third, Jude, was handicapped for life. In this dramatic event, the details of which we’re to find out much later, Jude was injured to such an extent that she ended up in a coma, and eventually she woke from it saying she remembered nothing. A girl from a broken home, a girl from a rather well-to-do family, a girl who has to depend on the kindness of strangers, what really happened to these Dover Girls?
In 2026, Tarek Zayat is making a documentary about the Dover Girls, trying to get to the bottom of what happened ten years before. A suicide pact, an accident, murder? However, Tarek is not just a curious and intrepid investigator, he has his own personal reasons for wanting to figure out this mystery.
This Nowhere Place takes on the form of the documentary: the chapters are not mere chapters but also episodes and each starts with a fragment of the documentary, like a sort of screenplay, as if we’re not just reading about it, but also watching the documentary. It is a refreshing, fun and very efficient way of drawing the reader in and making it all seem very real.
The mystery of the Dover Girls is a strong one, compelling and intriguing. The more the story progresses, the more questions arise. With characters clearly keeping secrets, and with hidden things hinted at, I kept turning the pages as fast as I could to find out more, and as I did, I found myself surprised a number of times… (Read it and we’ll talk!)
This Nowhere Place is not just the mystery of the Dover Girls, it is also the story of Tarek Zayat, driven documentary-maker, a British citizen to all intents and purposes, but originally from Aleppo, Syria, a former refugee on British soil. The refugee angle, including the 2016 debacle, was really interesting, I didn’t know a whole lot about it to be honest, I knew more about the situation in Calais but not Dover, so I’m glad to have learnt something, and I loved that I learnt it through the lives of the characters.
Atmospheric, tense and intriguing, This Nowhere Place is a compelling read. I hung onto Ms Bell’s every word from start to finish. If you like your mysteries with a healthy dose of drama, realism and sense of place, this is the one for you! Recommended.
This Nowhere Place is out on 18 March in hardcover, paperback and digital formats.
Huge thanks to Jen Breslin at Michael Joseph for the gorgeous proof! All opinions are my own.