Gone, by Rebecca Muddiman, is a crime thriller that does not attempt to portray the forces of law and order in a particularly positive light. Even the more dedicated police officers appear distracted and inept at times. Resources are limited and witnesses uncooperative. It was frustrating to read but perhaps accurately portrays the challenges of the job.
Sixteen year old Emma Thorley went missing eleven years ago. It was her third disappearance in less than a year so few took this event seriously. As a known drug user she elicited little sympathy. The officers tasked with investigating her case expected that she would turn up eventually, as she had done before.
Now a body has been discovered buried in woodland. Items recovered suggest that it could be Emma but there is no DNA evidence, no dental record, nothing concrete to confirm identification. DS Nicola Freeman is assigned the case and soon has a suspect on her radar, Lucas Yates. As she sets out to track down other persons of interest in an attempt to gather evidence she becomes aware that Lucas is on the same trail.
The character of Lucas Yates is brilliantly developed by the author. An arrogant, vicious, misogynist he could be charming when he chose but was truly unlikeable. He made my skin crawl, not least because his attitude was an exaggeration of laddish behaviour that is still all too commonly accepted. He considered women to be his property, existing to please him. The strong writing evoked angry emotions as I longed to see him taken down.
Many of the male characters showed his attitude towards women in a minor way. The married man whose wife left him for a colleague felt bereft at his loss but also resentful that she should have made him appear lessened in front of others. The loving boyfriend was determined to rescue his girl, partly due to a feeling of embarrassment following his discovery that she had been protecting him when his ego required that he should be seen to be protecting her.
There was little empathy between the characters. Each were existing within their own ideas of what they wanted their lives to be, railing against the actuality. In this it seemed a believable if bleak depiction.
Although I had guessed many of the answers to the various mysteries early on I was not disappointed by the tying up of threads. The short chapters, recaps and time jumps took some getting used to but by the second half I was eager to turn each page.
This is crime fiction for readers who appreciate realism over heroes and happy ever after. There is tension and drama aplenty with DS Freeman and DI Gardner making an interesting team. I wonder if the author plans to develop their relationship in a sequel.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Mulholland Books.