What Happened to Nina?
March 2, 2024

Book Review

What Happened to Nina?

reviewed by Carolyn Scott


Twenty-year-old Nina Fraser disappeared after spending a week on holiday with her boyfriend Simon Jordan. It was the last week of summer break, with both of them due to head back to college the following week and Nina had ditched working at her mother’s Inn to spend a week hiking and climbing at his parent’s property in Stowe in Vermont.

According to Simon, Nina told him later that week that she had been seeing other guys and wanted to break up with him. Claiming to be heartbroken, he headed home leaving Nina alone at the house, saying she planned to go and stay with a friend in Boston. However, no one ever saw or heard from her again. So, what did happen to Nina?

This is a superbly written tale of two families pitted against each other, both desperate to protect their children. Nina’s mother Leanne and stepfather Andrew don’t believe Nina would stay away without contacting them and Simon’s parents, Jamie and Rory, are adamant he would not have hurt her in any way. Simon and Nina have known each other since they were children and became sweethearts in high school. Neither set of parents were that happy about the relationship and hoped it would end when they went away to different colleges, but by the end of the year it seemed to be as strong as ever.

Leanne had to work hard as a single mother to renovate a dilapidated building into her successful inn, later marrying landscaper Andrew when Nina was still young enough to love him as a father and the welcome addition of a younger sister, Grace completed the family. Born to wealthy parents, Simon is a single child with a strong sense of entitlement, who never wanted for anything. As soon as the police look at him as a suspect in Nina’s disappearance, his father hired top lawyers and a PR company to support Simon’s innocence and spread rumours and misinformation about Nina and her family, encouraging toxic speculation to spread through social media.

The narrative unfolds through the voices of the family members as well as those of the detectives, each adding what they know or do to the plot. The reader knows quite early what happened to Nina, but there is still much to learn about how it happened and it’s the subsequent events that generate the suspense and intrigue in the novel. It has been suggested by some readers that the novel might have been partly inspired by the real-life disappearance in Wyoming in 2021 of a young woman on a road trip with her fiancé, which also generated a lot of social media speculation. However, the focus here is more on how Nina’s disappearance came about and how the family dynamics and interactions were affected.

It all makes for a gripping tale that is hard to put down. With short punchy chapters, maintaining momentum, the pacing is excellent and the characters so well defined they feel like people we know. It’s hard not to empathize with what Nina’s parents are going through and feel angry at the way the Jordans and the community are treating them, while also understanding Jamie’s desperation to do whatever it takes to clear her son’s name. The events and the way the investigation unfolds also feel totally plausible. The ending has a surprisingly unexpected twist that will delight many readers.

With thanks to Harper Collins Au via Netgalley for a copy to read.

What Happened to Nina? is available at:

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