Simon Booker seasoned screenwriter of prime time TV drama has turned his hand to writing a new series of crime fiction, Without Trace is the first book which introduces us to Morgan Vine, a journalist and childhood friend of Danny Kilcannon. Danny is in HMP Dungeness after being convicted of killing his teenage step-daughter Zoe four years previously.
Unusually for crime fiction much of this book focusses on the end result for the perpetrator of crime, prison. Danny is in prison, his life has been narrowed down to the confines of his cell, one of the few highlights being the prison book club which his old friend Morgan runs as a volunteer. What most of the other prisoners don’t know is that Danny and Morgan were close friends, went to school together and she has been one of the chief campaigners for his release. Absolutely convinced that he didn’t kill Zoe, likewise she also believes that his wife Rowena committed suicide and that’s why she disappeared without trace. When a key witness withdraws his statement Danny earns his freedom. But, then Morgan’s own teenage daughter goes missing.
This is a tense book, with flashbacks to her teenage years in the late 80s, a time when Danny was one of the closest friends of the girl whose father was headmaster of the school. In these excerpts we understand a little of what makes Morgan tick, why she has been so determined to free her former friend. In the present in the aftermath of her daughter’s disappearance it is only too easy to see why the doubts, never previously voiced or entertained begin to trouble her.
It might be tense but this book is also a fast moving thriller with new evidence, false leads and dodgy characters present on practically every page there was a point where I thought it was inevitable that the book would fall into the mid-section dip, surely unable to keep the frantic pace going while still holding the multiple strands of plot into any semblance of order. I was wrong, this is a book that doesn’t let up so don’t start it late at night if you have to get up early the next morning! With its short chapters a style that any serious bookworm knows just begs for ‘just one more chapter before…’ it was definitely hard to put down! In many ways the style reminded me that this author has been a writer of TV drama as the focus was definitely on the action and the complex plot while most of the characters being drawn with a broader brush, to keep the story moving at a pace.
Although fictional, and obviously so; I simply couldn’t really buy into the fact that any police investigation would sanction a journalist, the missing person’s mother to boot, being told key details along the way, it is also just as obviously well-researched. The scenes in the prison (which although a fictional HMP) felt entirely authentic with the smell and the unpredictability of men locked up while still coming across as human come from the author’s own volunteer work for restorative justice and prison reading groups.
As I stated at the beginning this is the first in a new series featuring Morgan Vine and I will definitely be interested in how her character develops. I know some of her background now, her fierce maternal instinct and her thwarted journalistic ambition which is plenty to build on for a second novel and I can’t wait to see how, following the fantastic resolution to this book, what is in store for her next. Unfortunately the next book isn’t due to be published until 2017.
I’d like to thank Midas PR (again), this is another book published by twenty7 publishers who concentrate on debut authors, and with this being the third delightful book, out of three, from this imprint I’m keen to see who will be next on the list.
Without Trace will be published in e-format on 28 January 2016 with the paperback out on 16 June 2016.
For those of you who want to know more about the book and the author, Midas PR have organised a book tour which starts on 28 January with my blog leading the way!