When the body of a sixteen year old girl is found buried in woods the news that it is Emma Thorley, a girl who went missing eleven years previously is leaked to the media and a number of people around the country are glued to the coverage for reasons known, in the most part only to themselves.
Right from the start there are delays, Emma was adopted and her father, now in his early seventies isn’t clear on the events that surrounded his daughter’s disappearance which had followed the death of her mother and her subsequent escape with drugs. With no blood relatives to ask for a blood sample, DNA identification is out of the question and the police need to use other methods to positively identify the body.
For DI Michael Gardner the discovery brings back unwanted memories of an unhappy time as well as a measure of guilt that he simply didn’t try hard enough to locate Emma, believing she was just another runaway teenage girl. When the violent, misogynistic yet charming Lucas Yates becomes aware that DS Nicola Freedman is leading the investigation into the murder, he decides to conduct his own counter measures, not least because he was a former boyfriend and knows that it won’t take long for his name to surface in the investigation. Louise Taylor follows the news but seems to want to keep her interest in events hidden from those around her while the police are facing a wall of silence to every question they ask of those who knew Emma. What is everyone hiding?
This is an exceptionally well told tale with the action alternating between the past, 1999 and the present 2010, in short yet engaging chapters so that the full story emerges of the past while the present is full of plenty of action, a format that kept me turning the pages to learn just another snippet to add the picture emerging.
This appears to be a realistic reflection of an actual investigation with the police being frustrated at every turn as the evidence needs to be forced to fit the prime suspect. DS Freedman is tenacious and takes no nonsense, in her personal life which is not in the perilous state of many fictional lead detectives but still has enough interest to make her feel authentic. DI Gardner had his problems in Blyth and moved away yet manfully faces up to what happened all those years before. A good pair of detectives who share a common goal and act like real people, no instant sharing of issues for these two.
All of the civilian characters have flaws with the main one seemingly being shared; a determination that life should turn out as they wanted it to. From the drug counsellor Ben to the scared girl with a secret to the awful Lucas they all want events to go their way and they appear to be willing to lie freely, to themselves as well as others, to preserve their image of what happened in 1999. Despite their flaws the characters keep the right side of parody, even Lucas falls short of becoming a pantomime villain, just but then I do enjoy having a character to loathe.
This had everything I look for in my crime fiction, a good range of characters tied to a story that allows the reader to think for themselves revealing pieces of information like the breadcrumbs for Hansel and Gretel right up to an ending that neither veered off course nor fizzled out.
I received my copy of this book from the publishers, Mulholland Books via Bookbridgr and it is one that I will be widely recommending. Gone was published on 15 January 2015.
Previous books by Rebecca Muddiman
When Abby Henshaw is brutally attacked by two strangers in the countryside, her first thought is for the safety of her baby daughter, Beth. But what follows is a mother’s worst nightmare: Beth is gone and Abby’s world collapses around her. As DI Michael Gardner begins to investigate Abby and her family, he discovers lives built on secrets and betrayals. Under pressure from his bosses to find the missing child and to unearth the truth, Gardner finds himself struggling to stay emotionally removed from the case, and from Abby herself. After the authorities finally shelve their investigation, Abby receives a message telling her where she can find her daughter. But how can she convince those around her that the girl really is Beth when they are the very people she knows least? A gripping and haunting debut, Stolen is a richly imagined psychological thriller from an exciting new talent in crime writing. Amazon