Exclusive: Author Emiko Jean on chilling new mystery The Return of Ellie Black

New York, New York - Emiko Jean has penned her first adult thriller with The Return of Ellie Black, and she spoke with TAG24 about the story behind this game-changing new mystery.

New York Times best-selling author Emiko Jean sat down with TAG24 to dish on her debut adult thriller, The Return of Ellie Black.
New York Times best-selling author Emiko Jean sat down with TAG24 to dish on her debut adult thriller, The Return of Ellie Black.  © Courtesy of Kathleen Carter

Jean, the New York Times best-selling author of Tokyo Ever After, dives into the world of adult thrillers with The Return of Ellie Black, which arrives on May 7.

As she searched for inspiration for the novel, Jean tapped into her own "fascination" with true crime stories.

"In particular, I have always really been drawn to stories about kidnap victims who've returned, so stories like JC Dugard, Elizabeth Smart, and Amanda Berry," Jean told TAG24.

Cardi B celebrates the fathers in her life, including her "baby father" Offset
Cardi B Cardi B celebrates the fathers in her life, including her "baby father" Offset

Avid mystery readers will be familiar with the popular "missing girl" trope, but The Return of Ellie Black turns the usual narrative on its head by focusing on a reappearance rather than a disappearance.

Her interest in stories of return, Jean says, was sparked by a curiosity about the "endurance of the human spirit" and learning how people manage to "survive something that might have otherwise destroyed them."

Trauma is a key player in The Return of Ellie Black, as Detective Chelsey Calhoun, who is tasked with investigating Ellie's case, is still haunted by the disappearance of her younger sister years prior.

Chelsey's perspective sets the stage for a number of important reflections on how such cases are handled and the persistent societal issues that continue to put women at risk.

What is The Return of Ellie Black about?

The Return of Ellie Black follows the reappearance of a young woman who disappeared years prior and the detective who sets out to solve the case.
The Return of Ellie Black follows the reappearance of a young woman who disappeared years prior and the detective who sets out to solve the case.  © Courtesy of Kathleen Carter

True crime media – especially podcasts and docuseries – have been widely popular for several years, particularly among women.

For Jean, she believes the appeal stems from a "survival instinct," a subconscious desire to understand past crimes to prevent becoming a victim ourselves.

"We empathize with the victims because we can really see ourselves becoming that," she said.

Ben Affleck ditches Jennifer Lopez for Jennifer Garner on Father's Day
Jennifer Lopez Ben Affleck ditches Jennifer Lopez for Jennifer Garner on Father's Day

The Return of Ellie Black puts some of the common questions about real-life cases into dialogue through Ellie's first-person narration of her disappearance, which is intertwined with the present-day focus on Chelsey's investigation.

The book sees Ellie pre-emptively defend herself for "mistakes" others may believe she made before being taken by her captor, providing a quick defense to the perpetual victim-blaming that women face after an attack.

This is amplified by the experiences of Chelsey, who recalls her father saying that her sister, Lydia, could have behaved better to prevent being killed. Victims like Lydia are unable to escape blame even in death, Jean says, and the novel puts a clear spotlight on the ways in which society teaches women that they must be responsible for the heinous acts of men.

"Chelsey doesn't say it out loud, but she thinks to herself that we should spend less time making rules and worrying about our daughters and more time worrying about men that we raise."

Will there be a sequel to The Return of Ellie Black?

Fans can look forward to more investigations from Detective Calhoun following the story of Ellie Black, as Jean is already working on a sequel focusing on a new case.

"I brought [Chelsey] to a certain place in the novel where she discovered a lot about herself and her family history, and I think she has more work to do in that regard," Jean teased. "She's so passionate about women and saving women's lives.

"I knew I wanted to continue to continue with those stories because it's something that I'm also passionate about."

For more on this month's hottest new reads, check out TAG24's May Book Release Radar.

Cover photo: Collage: Courtesy of Kathleen Carter

More on Entertainment: