Sunday 18 March 2018

Thriller: Without Trace by Simon Booker

Twenty7 Books €5.40

Without Trace by Simon Booker
Without Trace by Simon Booker

Eilis O'Hanlon

Morgan Vine's childhood flame Danny Kilcannon was jailed for the murder of his 13-year-old stepdaughter some years earlier. Wrongfully, as the struggling journalist believes.

She's long campaigned for his release, and now finally Danny's free after a key witness withdraws his evidence. Happy days.

Or at least they would be if someone wasn't leaving sinister messages outside Morgan's beach house on the bleak Kent coast of England, or if there didn't seem to be something going on between the ex-con and his loyal champion's wayward teenage daughter, Lissa.

When she too disappears, the woman who told the world that Danny was innocent is suddenly faced with the possibility that she may have been wrong all along.

Morgan is not an entirely convincing heroine, but there's no doubt that her creator has crafted an absorbing, tense, atmospheric debut thriller with plenty of twists and surprises, as well as a pervasively strong sense of place; the stony shore and grim caravan parks all play their part in the narrative, and there's a palpable air of desperation about life on this literal and littoral edge of the world that rubs off on the characters, all of whom seem to have too much to hide and not enough left to lose to stop them doing bad things.

From the start, Without Trace is reminiscent of one of those archetypal crime dramas on British TV - all dark buried secrets in atmospheric locations - so it was no surprise to learn that Simon Booker is also an experienced scriptwriter whose credits include a TV movie called The Stepfather about, well, a man who moves in with a new partner after his daughter vanishes, only for his new stepdaughter to go missing too…

Still, there's nothing wrong with a bit of creative recycling.

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