Audra Kinney is a New York woman fleeing her abusive husband, her young children in tow, when she gets pulled over on the Arizona backroads for a minor traffic violation. Afterwards, the cops refute her claims that her children were present when they arrived, suggesting that she harmed her children in the desert. Here and Gone is the story of a woman trying to prove her sanity to the world and herself.
The novel is not suspenseful since it is written in third person narrative and the events are reported as they unfold. While scenes from Audra’s past are shown in flashbacks, a drug and alcohol-induced past that might make others question and doubt her story, the reader is privy to the scenes leading up to and during Audra’s arrests as they happen. Beck’s prose is descriptive and engaging, and he uses epistolary format to explore the motive behind the crime, showing the email conversations that have prompted the kidnapping.
- Audra, a rehabilitated addict accused of abducting and possibly killing her children
- Sean – at 11 he plays older brother, scout hero and man of the family all at the same time
- Louise – 4 and sick during the entire novel
- Sheriff Whiteside – a dirty cop whose name seems borne out of his racial prejudice
- Deputy Collins – his equally dirty sidekick
- Miller – the FBI agent accused of not doing her job and rightly so
- Danny – the one man who connects this to a similar crime
Beck tried to install diverse characters as heroes – the African American FBI female agent, the Chinese-American man who arrives out of nowhere to save the day. He even goes out of his way to call attention to the diversity by having the “bad guys” act prejudicially towards these characters. In a novel where the victims are chosen specifically for their “whiteness”, this resembled a paint-by-numbers attempt to include contrast. However, the characters appear one dimensional – bad guys are just bad, the good guys have all been victimized – so much that the reader might start championing for the villains just because they are more interesting.
The plot is mostly linear, showing Audra’s encounter with the justice /injustice system – her arrest, interrogation, court appearances, media response and her attempt to fight the corruption – interspersed with an alternating narrative that follows the children. The only exceptions are the flashbacks on what happened in her past to warrant the suspicions around her, and the introduction of the hero character. This simple narrative makes it an easy story to follow and an uncomplicated read, until the final resolution.
Most of the story occurs in an Arizona small town where the local sheriff, though unlikable, is the law. However, since Audra is fleeing New York, her old home shows up in her flashbacks. We read about her walks to Union Square and the Barnes and Noble located there, her working in a gallery in the Village and her living a stone’s throw from Central Park West. But the bustling life of the city doesn’t show through in these references, and Audra seems more at home in the small town and in the mountain range than she ever did in the remembered scenes.
Haylen Beck is a pseudonym for Stuart Neville, a known crime novelist. Since Here and Gone is in the same genre, one wonders, did he use a pen name to avoid comparison between this and his other, better received books?
While Here And Gone is a interesting story characterizing a concerning situation, it lacks the depth one expects from a suspenseful thriller deserving of the praise from other authors in this genre. The unlikeable main character and hero detracted from the other positives in this story. I gave this a 3 star rating and would recommend it for an easy summer afternoon, especially for readers who want to explore a mystery without the nail-biting suspense that usually accompanies these stories.Amazon, YouTube, Tumblr, Bloglovin, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter
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I received a free copy of this book from Blogging For Books in order to complete this review but this did not at all influence my opinions of the story.