My Review of "Gone Astray" by Michelle Davies

Gone Astray
This is a very believable crime thriller which takes a very ordinary simple situation and turns it into an exciting and gripping tale full of twists, suspense and drama. I had to check whether this was in fact Michelle Davies' first novel as the plot is so well executed and the characters so well crafted! It reads as fluently as any other book in the genre of psychological thrillers and will give recent titles such as "Gone Girl" a run for its money.

Leslie Kinnock, her husband Mack and their daughter Rosie are recent £15 million winners of the lottery after Leslie bought a ticket on a whim. They have moved house, area, schools and left their old lives behind but Leslie seems to resent this new found wealth and hasn't adapted to it as easily as the rest of the family. She "loathes the wealth" which is all about "show" and walks around in bagging, worn clothes as what "was the point of dressing up when Mack's job and no friends to see". I thought this made her a rather intriguing character and right from the beginning it implies Leslie has a deeper dissatisfaction with life and suggests more about the seemingly perfect family set up.

The story begins with Rosie's disappearance. Has she been taken or gone willingly? Is this just the behaviour of a typical 15 year old or has a sinister crime taken place?

The opening pages had me completely hooked. My attention was grabbed by the detailed description of Leslie returning home, finding the alarm had been fiddled with and then the eerie silence of a house where her daughter "viewed peace and quiet with the same disdain people reserved for traffic wardens". The image of Leslie searching the house and her growing sense of panic and unease is so vividly captured through minute observations that you are firmly placed at the scene with Leslie and take notice of every single tiny detail as Davies uses these pages to convey more subtle information to the reader and fill every sentence with some hidden suggestion of tension and suspense. Immediately the reader is wondering why the house is such a fortress and why is Leslie so riddled with anxiety and neurosis. The chapter ends on a cliffhanger making anything but reading on impossible.

The chapters then alternate between the unfolding story of Rosie's disappearance and the police investigation. Maggie is the police officer assigned to be the Family Liaison Officer. She is an appealing character; sensitive, and determined yet with her own skeletons and complications. Davies develops her plot by introducing further sub plots involving the people in Maggie's life and then weaving them in and out of the main plot line with a deft proficiency.

Dispersed amongst these chapters is a third, anonymous, more threatening and aggressive voice.

There are so many clues and comments that heighten the sense of mystery and suspense the reader is on tenter hooks throughout the whole novel. The unexplained absences of Mack, the comment from Rosie's friends that "she didn't deserve this", the predatory nature of the anonymous voice and his alluring personality, the emails on the laptop, the hidden secrets between Leslie and Rosie and the duplicitous behaviour of teenagers. All used with skill to create a thrilling read and dramatic climax.

I really liked the way the characters all began to interact towards the end and all the separate threads of story started to interact leading to dramatic revelations. Davies leaves you considering numerous questions such as is anything ever as it seems? How well do we know the people closest to us and how often do we miss what is right under our noses all along?

I enjoyed this book a lot. It was an engaging, quick read that had all the ingredients we have come to expect from a good, well written psychological thriller. I will be recommending to my friends as I think this is a book which will appeal to lots of them. This is definitely a book for fans of Elizabeth Hayes, Linda Huber, Rachel Abbott, crime novels and psychological thrillers. It also reminded me of Fiona Neill's "The Good Girl".

Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.

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