Written by Luca Veste — Some books start with a bang, creating an unbearable tension that augurs well for what is to follow. Then She Was Gone is such a book, beginning with a nightmare scenario that would chill the blood of any parent.
Tim Johnson dotes on his baby daughter and loves to spend time with her. It’s on one of these father/daughter outings that his world turns black. They are strolling through the park when Molly is snatched and he is knocked unconscious. Trouble is, when Tim wakes up no one believes he has a baby daughter and he finds himself facing a murder charge….
So far, so intriguing. Then, sadly, things go off the boil. We are but three chapters in when the action suddenly leaps to the present day, and a meandering internalisation headed “You”. These musings on revenge and retribution are scattered throughout the book and after a while I found myself skimming past them, simply because they’re so repetitive.
Onto next chapter (confusingly labelled Chapter One) and we get our first mention of Murphy and Rossi – the police duo which has garnered so many fans for Luca Veste. DI David Murphy is enjoying the view on Liverpool waterfront, sharing a rare few moments of relaxation with his wife Sarah. Then it’s back to the grindstone at the Major Crime Unit, where politics, of both the office and parliamentary variety, are about to involve Murphy and DS Laura Rossi in a case that doesn’t at first glance appear to be very major at all.
The prospective parliamentary candidate in a local by-election has gone missing and his well-connected parents are worried. They want things kept off the media radar and expect the investigation to be done on the hush hush. Sam Byrne is a rising star in the Tory party and is expected to win the seat. So why has he gone off without telling anyone? Maybe he wanted to recharge his batteries for a few days before the final election push?
The discovery of a mutilated body and revelations that screams were heard from Byrne’s second, secret, home set the alarm bells ringing though. Then, in another jolting time shift – they occur throughout this book – we leap back nine years to the formation of a secret society by a group of well-connected, privileged, university students. All the pieces of this ever-increasing puzzle matter, but it is a logistical nightmare to keep them in play as things get ever more complicated.
That secret society/revenge plot line seemed familiar, though I couldn’t for the life of me remember which book I’d read it in. You have a long, long time to wait until the unfortunate (and banged up) Tim Johnson makes an appearance and when he does, it is a bit of an anticlimax – that dazzling beginning has somehow lost its shine and becomes something of a damp squib.
Murphy and Rossi are a great pair of characters but their impact is somehow muted and for some reason Then She Was Gone just doesn’t flow like Bloodstream. As ever, the settings are bang-on (it’s always a pleasure to be transported back to the city of my birth) and the dialogue is snappy, but the overuse of redundant phrases like ‘made his way into’ and the constant misspelling of focusing/focused mars the reading pleasure.
For another Liverpool thriller try Cast Iron Men by Dominic Kearney.
Simon & Schuster
CFL Rating: 3 Stars