Friday, 8 February 2013

Gone Again

Yesterday morning an exciting package arrived for me in the post:

So excited by this delivery was I that I thought I'd open and read the first few pages, just to get a feel for the story.

I was gripped. It's now 24 hours later and, apart from participating in the necessities of eating and sleeping, I've not been able to put this addictive read down.

As mentioned in my previous post, this was a break from the typical books I've read this year. I tend not to read too many thrillers; my reads tend to be gentler fare, probably for no other reason than habit. I'm glad I made the break for this one. Gone Again is the story of a family torn apart when wife and mother Lauren fails to pick up son Nathan from school. Told from the perspective of husband and father Mark, we follow the duo as minutes turn into hours and worry builds as Lauren's whereabouts remain a mystery. A shocking discovery is then made which changes their lives forever.

Doug Johnstone's style is brilliantly raw. We observe Mark's thoughts as his worry grows, his doubts peak and he is tortured by memories of what now must be a previous life. Alongside his own torment Mark desperately tries to protect his son. Their relationship forms the heart of this story and as a reader you can empathise with Mark's determination to shield the young boy from the pain of loss as well as the trauma that spills in the latter half.

I loved the simplicity of Johnstone's storytelling. We've all been in those situations where we've watched the clock, wondering where a late loved one is. In this tale we see what happens when our darkest imaginings come true, causing our baggage to come tumbling out the closet as every element of our lives is scrutinised. The reveals about their family history, Lauren's previous disappearance and the mysterious goings on at her place of work are drip fed to the reader so that the novel's pace never flags. As for the last few chapters of this book - these are best tackled when you have plenty of time to read without interruption. I was glad I had the luxury of a day off when reading, as I would have hated to put this down at any point during the thrilling climax.

My only slight criticism would be that I felt there were a few unresolved components at the end of this story. Without wanting to give too much away, we leave the characters at something of a beginning of the end; there are still issues to be resolved, questions unanswered. This isn't necessarily a weakness, as it does leave the reader thinking and wondering what happens next (personally I've been hoping desperately that poor Nathan won't be too traumatised by his early experiences with Edinburgh's criminal underbelly). Ultimately, whether you find this slightly frustrating or highly intriguing is down to personal preference.

Regardless of this, I found Gone Again to be a dark, pacy thriller; you'll find yourself flying through the pages, wanting justice for Mark and his family. I'd definitely recommend it as an entertaining, easy to read commute book which provides both escapism and excitement en route to the office.

(Published 7 March 2013. Available for preorder on Kindle or paperback. Thanks to Doug Johnstone and Faber and Faber for sending me a copy for review.

To learn more about Doug Johnstone and his work, visit his blog.

For another review of this title, or to find out about other crime novels, visit Raven Crime Reads)

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