Tuesday, 13 June 2017
#HereandGone #HaylenBeck #Review
Audra is fleeing through Arizona with her two small children, desperately trying to escape an abusive marriage. She is pulled over by a sheriff and taken into custody - her children placed under the care of a police woman who was called to the scene when the Sheriff's questioning took a more sinister turn. He finds a bag of drugs in Audra's boot though she claims to know nothing about it.
When Audra and the Sheriff arrive at the station, her children are not there. And the Sheriff claims that they never were and that he never saw any children with her..........
I just loved the premise for this novel - I mean, how utterly unsettling and spine tingling! Firstly, you are fleeing from all you ever knew - your home, husband, life....paranoid that you're being chased and the only things you care about protecting are your children. Then, after a horrible intervention from a over zealous sheriff, you find your children are not where the police officer said they would be and now the sheriff is insinuating you are mad - or a monster - who killed her own children while travelling alone on the road.
This has surely got to be one of the most deeply troubling blurbs I had seen in a while. And the opening of the book does not disappoint. It is so well written. Audra's emotional turmoil, anxiety, fear and frustration are so well captured and evoked that it is a really gripping read from the outset.
".....the pain between her shoulder blades, like the muscles back there coming unstitched. Like she was coming apart, and the stuffing would soon billow out of her seams...."
There was no hiding from the outset that this was going to be a disturbing dark read.
And disturbing and dark it is - more so than I anticipated.
Audra's relationship with her husband is harrowing. He has abused her in so many different ways - emotionally and physically.
"....his tongue always the gentle blade with which to stab at her, so gentle she wouldn't know she had been cut until long after, when she would lie awake with his words still rolling in her mind...."
It has taken all her strength to escape him and now, now she is captured by another man who claims to be there to help her yet Audra can not trust him or believe him. Before she can fully try to make sense or even guess at what might be going on, she finds herself being framed for murder and every person in the whole country gunning for her trial and imprisonment.
I enjoyed the ambiguity and the confusion about who to believe, what might be happening and then the frightening revelation about the horrific crimes taking part in a criminal underworld. Audra has found herself launched from one life threatening situation into another - and this time there seems no way out. The reader feels compelled to believe her but then why does her friend Mel say she's "sorry she ever met her" and refuse to bail her out when she is at the Sheriff's office? Is there more to Audra than she's telling us? Who can we trust? A sheriff and his female colleague who nurses a sick child at home? Or a woman who has just had a bag of drugs found in her boot?
I loved the use of repetition of "safe place" at the beginning and how it was deliberately overused by each character. Each time it was said, it meant something slightly different and each time it implied a hidden motive or a chance to trick someone or disguise the situation. There's a very subtle debate going on here about how we use the word safe and how the characters try to pretend things are, when actually there is no such place and everyone knows it.
I thought there were also some interesting discussions about "monsters" and what makes a person a monster. This allowed the writer to open up a wider debate about the portrayal of women in the press and the sexism that exists for women who suffer in abusive relationships. There are a few statements by characters that are slotted in almost unnoticed, yet speak volumes. This creates a story that can on the one hand be enjoyed as a page turning thriller, and on the other, as a more thought provoking, challenging novel about contemporary social problems.
"too many women apologise for the behaviour of men"
This is a dark novel. It starts off like a psychological thriller but quickly it becomes a much more of a police procedural / crime novel. There is a police investigation and there are several crimes to solve and a criminal gang to catch. The themes in this novel include child trafficking, domestic abuse, alcoholism, police corruption and the invasion of the media. There are also more emotional themes like power and manipulation, self esteem and damaging relationships. It really is quite bleak.
But, if you can say this about such a storyline, it is a good read. It is gritty. It is about an immoral, corrupt world. It is sinister and unpleasant but it is a page turner. And there are two heroes - well, possibly three or four actually, who we are rooting for all the way and their perseverance, determination, courage and selflessness ensures the book does not become too grim or overwhelming.
I really enjoyed the writing. Although the subject and issues explored in the novel are dark, violent and unnerving, the prose is full of powerful imagery and creates characters that are believable, terrifying and able to provoke strong feelings from the reader. Audra is a well crafted woman. She is complex, she is flawed, she is vulnerable but she never gives up. This novel lets her prove to herself just what she is capable of and just how far a mother's love can save lives and families.
Here and Gone is a story of motherhood, of strength, survival and what happens when people are put under pressure. I'm glad I read it and I would recommend it. I enjoyed Beck's writing style and it is lyrical and poetic at times which is very effective and makes the descriptions and emotional turmoil of the characters more effective.
If you want something dark, deeply sinister and something that might stop you sleeping at night then this is the book for you! Go on, you know you love this type of thing really!!!
Here and Gone is published on Kindle on 13th June 2017 and in hardback on 13th July 2017.
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