Title: Here and Gone
Expected publication: 13 July 2017
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟1/2
“Please,” she said, unable to keep the quiver from her voice. “I’ve done everything you said. I’ve been cooperative. Please tell me where my children are.” Whiteside held her gaze. “What children,” he asked.
Haylen Beck is the pseudonym of a well-known crime novelist and screenwriter, and his writing skills became instantly obvious as he quickly drew me in with the opening chapter to Here and Gone. It starts innocently enough. A young woman is driving along a lonely desert road with her two children in the back. She is trying to escape an abusive marriage, hoping to make a new start with a friend in California. But when she looks in the rearview mirror she sees a police car following her, flashing its lights, forcing her to move over. The sheriff tells her that her car is overloaded and asks her to step out of the vehicle, leaving her children in the back seat. She is scared.
He is an officer of the law.
He is armed.
He has all the power.
And her nightmare is only just beginning ...
I loved Beck’s ability to paint the opening scene with the type of technicolour clarity of a bad dream, playing out in every small and terrible detail in my mind. The long, hot, lonely road. The sour taste of fear in Audra’s mouth as she spots the police cruiser in her rearview mirror. The crunch of tires and spray of dust as she pulls over onto the side of the road. The slow walk of the sheriff, eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses, hands on his gun belt, as he makes his way over to her. “Please step out of the car.” It sent a shiver down my spine imagining myself in the same situation! With such an imbalance in power, what options does Audra have other than to comply and follow the sheriff’s orders? Her absolute horror and panic when she realises that her children are being taken away by a stranger is palpable in every written word. Beck’s portrayal of a woman with her back against the wall as no one believes her is well drawn, as is the moment Audra summons her inner tiger-mother and begins to fight back.
With its claustrophobic atmosphere and constant sense of menace and danger to our hapless protagonist, Here and Gone was reminiscent of a Lee Child novel – I was waiting for Jack Reacher to come to Audra’s rescue and kick some butt! Instead, we get Danny Lee, a fascinating character I absolutely loved! He would definitely make a worthy vigilante for many more future novels yet to come. Danny appeared at exactly the very moment in the book where I feared it would go down the conspiracy theory track, and immediately snapped my attention back into focus.
Perhaps my only gripe with the story was that it gave away too much too early, which took some of the thrill factor away. I am trying not to give any spoilers here, but basically we know very early on who is behind the children’s abduction, and there are no surprises in store in that regard. A lot more suspense could have been created had the author kept back that bit of information until much later – there were certainly plenty of opportunities to create other suspects in the reader’s mind. Instead, with the mystery solved, the story turns into a race against time to find the missing children, and I had plenty of faith in Danny Lee that this would be accomplished. That said, there was still plenty of action and a nail-biting finale that made it well worth reading on for!
Here and Gone is a fast –paced and atmospheric thriller which will appeal to fans of the Jack Reacher series and similar novels. Personally, I hope for a return of Danny Lee in future books, as he made for an intriguing protagonist worthy of a lot more missions.
Thank you to Netgalley and Vintage for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.