Here and Gone
PublisherHarvill Secker
Date Published10 August 2017
 
 
ISBN-101911215566
ISBN-13978-1911215561
Formathardcover
Pages320
Price£ 12.99

Here and Gone

by Haylen Beck

Audra and her two children have escaped an abusive husband, but her road-trip across the US turns out to be a case of out of the frying pan into the fire when Sean and Louise are abducted.


Review

Audra Kinney has finally made a break from her abusive husband. To prevent him taking her two children Sean and Louise from her, she’s thrown a few possessions into the car and left New York on a road trip across the US to stay out of his clutches. She’s keeping to country roads and out of the way places to avoid drawing attention to them, but when she’s stopped by a local sheriff in the middle of nowhere, and he searches her car, Audra plunges headfirst into a nightmare from which there seems no prospect of awakening.

Sheriff Whiteside claims her car looks over-loaded and in a search of the boot, he finds drugs hidden there. Audra denies all knowledge of them but she’s taken into custody by the sheriff while Sean and Louise are taken away by a female officer, Deputy Collins. Later, when Audra demands to know what has happened to her children, the sheriff denies all knowledge of ever having seen the children, and implies that Audra has killed them and hidden their bodies. The later discovery of bloodstains in the car supports that theory.

No one believes Audra, and although the sparky, feisty and not easily fooled Special Agent Jennifer Mitchell of the FBI’s Child Abduction Response Deployment team does her best to give Audra a fair hearing, she still appears to believe the version of events cooked up by Whiteside and Collins.

Help, when it finally comes, is from an unexpected quarter. Danny Lee’s young daughter went missing in similar circumstances some years ago, and his wife Mya, unable to cope with the loss of her child and the blame that was levelled at her, took her own life. Danny has always believed that his daughter was snatched by a wealthy group of paedophiles operating out of the depths of the infamous Dark Web, but he’s never been able to prove it. Now he has a chance to help Audra and take revenge for his own child.

Here and Gone is a chilling look at a woman on the verge of breaking, who holds things together only through her love of her children. Her controlling and manipulative husband fostered her dependence on alcohol and drugs to reduce her to a state of compliance. His mother undermined her at every possible opportunity. With that sort of background, it’s hard not to see Audra as a passive victim, but as the story develops, a core of steel becomes apparent, and it’s clear Audra will do anything to get her children back safely.

The name Haylen Beck might be new to the crime scene, but Stuart Neville, the man behind the name certainly isn’t. Despite my grumpiness with authors writing under a pseudonym, I couldn’t fault this US debut. Here and Gone is a strong, well-told story, with good characterisation and taut plotting. The tension mounts steadily, and I was hugely rooting for the two children to come out of the whole nightmare unscathed, but at times that seemed like a tall order particularly when, locked away in a basement somewhere, Louise, the youngest of the two, starts to run a fever. Sean is a gutsy kid doing his best to hide his own terrors so he can comfort his younger sister and the scenes between them are both powerful and poignant. There’s nothing insufferably cutesy about these two. They’re real kids in a horrible situation facing an unpleasant fate, and Sean is all too aware of that.

The story gathers pace and cracks start to appear in the facade Whiteside and Collins have built up. Neville’s trademark darkness has crossed the Atlantic in style and the Haylen Beck brand promises to be a strong one. This is a stylish, compelling psychological thriller.

Reviewed 22 July 2017 by Linda Wilson