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Mo Hayder – Gone

Author: Mo Hayder

Title: Gone

Publisher: Bantam

Paperback: 558 pages

ISBN: 978-0-553-82433-9

Price: £6.99

Publication Date: 25/11/2010

Mo Hayder has become known for her brutal and gory crime thrillers. So it was with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation that I approached Gone, my first foray into her literary realm. However, the novel is actually surprisingly restrained in the violence stakes, instead achieving its compelling tension through Hayder’s authorial skills and the book’s highly emotive subject matter – paedophilia and kidnapping.

A car-jacking in Bristol turns into something far darker when the police, led by Jack Caffery, realise that the vehicle contained a young girl. It quickly becomes apparent that the car – and the young girl – was specifically targeted. And when another girl is taken, the police search becomes frantic, for they realise that the more time passes the less chance there is of finding the two girls alive. But the jacker has left no evidence and takes a perverse delight in toying with the police and taunting the grieving families. And matters aren’t helped by Caffery repeatedly [and foolishly] giving the families false hope, telling them everything will be all right, filling the reader with a quiet dread that it will be anything but.

Caffery reminds me of Tom Thorne and Alan Banks; he’s middle-aged, hard-bitten and a maverick. However, it was Caffery’s insomnia, loneliness and travails in the love-stakes that makes him interestingly different. His [potential] relationship with Flea Marley, a sergeant in the Underwater Rescue Unit, has floundered after Caffery discovered that Flea had killed a woman [well, it would rather put a dampener on things!]. Except that Flea didn’t do it – her brother was responsible and she hid the corpse to protect him. This adds an unusual and charged dynamic to Caffery and Flea’s relationship – they are obviously both attracted to one another, but his ‘knowledge’ has driven a wedge between them and they will be unable to work through it until one of them admits their truth to the other [not something that looks particularly likely in the near future].

Despite being a hefty 558 pages long, Gone is a blisteringly paced, dark read. Although there are very few clues to the jacker’s identity, I did work out who it was fairly early on in the novel. However, this in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the story, and the major plot twist was so brilliantly disguised by Hayder that it took me completely by surprise [not something that often happens to me when reading crime fiction]. I thought Caffery’s fallibility and imperfections make him an interesting central character, but that it is the emotionally scarred Flea and the mysterious, itinerant Wandering Man [a sort of spiritual guide to Caffery] who really stood out in the book and gave Gone a depth and individuality that makes it stand out from the competition.
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