Gone Without A Trace by Mary Torjussen
You leave for work one morning.
Another day in your normal life.
Until you come home to discover that your boyfriend has gone.
His belongings have disappeared.
He hasn't been at work for weeks.
It's as if he never existed.
But that's not possible, is it?
And there is worse still to come.
Because just as you are searching for him
someone is also watching you.
This is such a great premise for a novel. I was describing the set up to a friend and she asked me to stop as she was getting shivers already!
Imagine - you walk into your house after work, and all trace of your boyfriend is gone. The paintings from the wall, the kitchen gadgets to the photos of him on your phone. Your text messages to each other have disappeared and his name and number are no longer in your contacts list. Everything is gone. Every trace of him has been swiped from your life.
Pretty chilling. Pretty gripping. Pretty intriguing.
Things were going great for Hannah and Matt - a wedding on the cards, a promotion in the bag, a lovely flat...... the perfect life together. It doesn't make any sense to Hannah. Why would Matt leave her?
Even Hannah's friends are confused. They don't seem to believe Hannah, and James even comes around to check, searching the flat for evidence that Hannah is keeping something from them; that it is a breakup and Hannah won't admit the truth but after seeing the flat, James has to admit it all feels very odd.
I think what I liked best about this book was that it was so realistic. The author has really taken the "what if" question and played with it. Everyone can relate to this situation - everyone fears this situation and everyone wonders what they would do and what it might drive them to do. Every step Hannah took felt realistic, I didn't have to suspend my imagination, give her the benefit of the doubt or let anything pass by - every moment felt real, plausible, tangible and frighteningly true. I empathised with Hannah. I felt her frustration, confusion, loss and heartbreak.
Torjussen as thought of everything. She takes any loop hole that Hannah might find, any avenue that can Hannah might explore, any answers that social media and the internet might provide and shows them to be flawed or their uselessness explained. Matt really has disappeared without trace. Hannah really can't find him or any evidence of him ever existing. The author is open and up front and is happy to watch you feel as bewildered and perplexed as Hannah.
And then, things really get scary. Strange things start to happen in the flat. The flowers in the vase that Hannah notices need throwing out as she leaves for work are fresh and alive when she returns. The kettle is warm when she walks in after a whole day out with condensation fresh on the tiles above it. A few things are out of place, a few things are going missing. Is it a "Sleeping with the Enemy", "The Girl on the Train", "Gone Girl" moment? Is Hannah being stalked? Was Matt taken and now she is in danger? Or is someone trying to make her look as if she has gone mad? What has happened? How is this novel going to resolve itself???!!!
And then things are not only going wrong at home, but things also start to go wrong at work. Hannah struggles to keep on top of things. Her obsession to find Matt is taking over her life. She is dropping the ball at work and her colleagues are becoming concerned by her erratic behaviour. Her search for Matt is also threatening her friendship with Katie - her best friend, her friend who knows her inside out and has stuck by her for years. Hannah feels more and more alone, isolated, misunderstood and heartbroken than ever.
I'm stopping now. Because if I say any more I will give something away and I do not want to. I have to say that Gone Without A Trace has one most fabulous twist and one of the most fabulous characterisations.
I really enjoyed Gone Without A Trace. It was the perfect weekend read. It is an impressive debut because the plot is so clever and so compelling. I couldn't guess where it was heading and when my sympathy with Hannah began to wane, I thought I could blame the author but no, there is no blame to be placed. Torjessen knew exactly what she was doing with Hannah - and every single word on those 345 pages. The climax is dramatic, nail biting and down right exciting. If my friend was shivering by the end of the first page, she will be positively hyperthermic by the last.
My only slight, teeny tiny comment would be that I felt the timeline was quite lengthy and it might have been better if events had been condensed over a shorter time period - or whether we needed some kind of signal at the top of some of the chapters to place us but having said that, Torjussen's reasons for this are clear by the end. And the book still maintains the suspense and tension effectively throughout.
So I might have come across more descriptive, poetic, lyrical, multilayered and literary novels this year but I am going to rate Gone Without a Trace 5 stars just because. Because it was a good read. Because it was a satisfying read. Because it was a read I wanted to talk to someone about. A book that intrigues you, captures your imagination, compels you with it's plot and leaves you with a dropped jaw deserves 5 stars. What more can you ask from a book? This is a carefully planned, brilliantly executed thriller and it is well worth reading.
I will be watching out for Torjussen's next novel.
Gone Without A Trace is published by Headline on 23rd March.
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