Book: “Here and Gone” by Haylen Beck
Publishing Info: Crown Publishing Group, June 2017
Where Did I Get This Book: The library!
Book Description: Here and Gone is a gripping, wonderfully tense suspense thriller about a mother’s desperate fight to recover her stolen children from corrupt authorities.
It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them…
Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.
Review: Though I never saw the movie “Flightplan”, the concept of it caught my interest. A woman and her daughter get on a plane, her daughter disappears, and then when she reports it the flight crew tell her that she never had a daughter with her. I would assume that part of the movie is spent making the viewer question whether Jodie Foster is insane or not (if I am wrong, tell me!). It’s a trope that has been used before, sometimes very effectively and other times…. not. But while I was thinking that “Here and Gone” was going to be this trope all over again, effectiveness to be determined, it’s established pretty early on that this is not one of those stories. And frankly, I was relieved. Instead of wondering whether Audra was going to end up being yet another unstable and messed up protagonist in a “Girl on the Train”-esque mystery, we get corruption in a small town and the dark web. And to that I say ‘hell YES’.
What I really liked about “Here and Gone” is that since right away we know that Audra’s children, Sean and Louise, do exist, we don’t have to worry about trying to solve a mystery on top of another mystery. In fact, I was really just along for the ride of trying to see how Audra was going to escape custody of a corrupt sheriff, and how she was going to save her children from being sold into sex trafficking (yes, it went there). I wasn’t worried about some crazy reveal about Audra’s mental state, and while there were still a couple questions that had to be definitively answered I pretty much was able to sit back, relax, and let it all play out. Because of this, I found myself incredibly engrossed in this book, picking it up one night and then finishing it up the very next night in a marathon reading session. Beck knows how to sustain the tension in this book, even when jumping from character to character, time period to time period.
While none of his characters are super intricate and complex, they all have just enough defining characteristics that I always believed the choices that they made. Audra as a protagonist was especially fun to follow, as she is a scrappy dame who has completely pulled herself from victimization to empowerment, and not in a way that seemed cheesy or laid on too thick. We get the past with her husband and we see how it all happened, but we also saw that she believably has made a new life for herself, and left the despair of abuse and addiction behind her. Not once are we manipulated into thinking that oh, she may slip up in her sobriety, or oh, she may have to be victimized again to get her children back. In her steadfastness she was fun to follow. The secondary protagonist is Danny, a man whose daughter was taken under similar circumstances. When he sees the news reports of a woman who may have murdered her children but insists they were with her when the cops pulled her over, he thinks of his wife, and how their daughter disappeared in similar fashion. His wife committed suicide shortly thereafter. His backstory was a nice juxtaposition to Audra’s showing just how grave this situation really is. Beck also made a point to show cause and effect of the slow death of small town America, built up with promises of an American Dream only to find themselves in poverty when industry has left them. The town filled with a corrupt police force is dying because of a now defunct mining community, and as poverty sets in, greed and entitlement (as well as tragedy) drives our antagonists to do the unthinkable. It was far more interesting than the scenario I thought we were going into, and I think that because it was so straight forward, I was more hooked than I would have been had I been waiting for a twist. I should also note that Haylen Beck is a pen name for Irish writer Stuart Neville, and while he may be based in Northern Ireland I think he did a bang up job of writing about Small Town Americana.
Sure, it’s not a perfect book. There are some things that seem to fit together a little to perfectly, and sometimes I had to suspend some of my disbelief in how some scenarios shook out, or how lucky some things ended up being. But as far as fun thrillers go, this one was very engaging and would be a great pick for a plane or a beach read as summer starts to wind down.
Rating 8: A fast paced and suspenseful thriller that was hard to put down.
“Here and Gone” is new and isn’t featured on any Goodreads lists, but I think that it would fit in on “Child Abduction”.
Find “Here and Gone” at your library using WorldCat!