I read a lot of books. A LOT of books. And I review quite a few. But I don’t generally, go around saying things such as, “You must read this book. It is so great!” and, to my writing friends, “I learned so much about craft just by reading this book!” The book in question: Gone by Mo Hayder.
Here’s the quickie plot synopsis – carjacker steals car from parking garage, and there’s an 11-year-old girl in the back seat. Detective Jack Caffery expects she’ll turn up soon, as the jacker realizes she’s there and dumps her off. The only question is how far away he’ll go before releasing her. But it doesn’t happen, and with each passing hour, the likelihood of finding Martha alive diminishes.
Second plot line: Cop/colleague Flea Marley is an underwater spelunker (cave explorer). She’s a risk taker with a secret. And the way Flea feels about her secret, and what Caffery thinks he knows about her secret and the actions he takes to keep it hidden, keeps them apart. Even though the reader knows that sparks will fly if they ever get together.
The way the detective work is undertaken, how the clues come out and the larger picture comes into focus, and then the absolutely stunning plot twist is revealed… absolutely masterful.
For the police procedural fan, Gone is a cracking good read. Start early in the day because you won’t be able to put it down.
For the writer, Gone is a lesson in how to do things right. How to develop a plot. How to reveal backstory. How to increase suspense. How to ratchet up tension, How to build believable characters the reader cares about. How to pull off a plot twist that turns on our view of a previously likable character in a way that makes the reader say “OMG,” not “What a cheat.” And lastly, how to create a conclusion that is absolutely true and touching.