Sunday, September 24, 2017

Without trace by Simon Booker

For four years Morgan Vine has been a champion for her childhood friend Danny Kilcannon - who was convicted for the murder of his step daughter Zoe and the supposed murder of his wife Rowena.  Morgan is one of the few people who believe he is innocent, and apart from documenting his innocence on a website, she has also managed to get inside the prison to see him regularly using a book group.  When new evidence surfaces and Danny's appeal is successful he is finally free, but it won't be smooth sailing for the man dubbed the 'killer canon' by the press - and it won't be smooth sailing for Morgan either. 

She has been struggling to make ends meet as a freelance journalist and has had to take cleaning jobs on the side to pay her bills.  She lives a simple life, one that is complicated when her teenage daughter suddenly reappears on her doorstep.  Lissa has always been challenging, and she is not thrilled that her mother is spending time with a man convicted of murder.  Morgan is happy Danny has been released at first, but then little niggles of doubt start to appear.  He is not the man she remembered, and there seems to be something off about their relationship.  When Lissa suddenly disappears Morgan tries not to look at Danny, but the appearance of a sex tape shows all too clearly that Danny got to know her daughter very well indeed before she disappeared.

Caught between two cases, Morgan tries to get to the bottom of the story about Danny while also searching for her missing daughter.  As the days stretch out and Lissa remains missing, Morgan can't help but wonder about Danny and what really happened to his step daughter Zoe and his wife Rowena.  When the man who testified about Danny is severely injured and nearly died Morgan starts looking into his story and stumbles across a shocking secret.  Someone is determined to keep Morgan in the dark about what really happened all those years ago, and with Lissa missing Morgan might be so distracted that she never sees the danger coming until it is too late.

I have been on something of a British crime binge this month, and I have discovered some amazing new authors - including Simon Booker.  This is the first book of his I have read, but I found it thoroughly engaging and I finished it in one sitting.  Morgan is an interesting character, she is not afraid to take risks when it comes to her personal life and her career, but on the flip side she is not so willing to take risks in terms of her personal life and her family.  Lissa is a strong willed and spoiled contrast to her mother, and Danny is an enigmatic character that you can't quite pin down as a good guy or a bad guy or just as someone who has been changed by his years in prison.  The cast of characters is small and everyone has their roles, but as the story develops you realise that not everyone is who or what they seem (or what the clich├ęs tell you they should be).  

This is a well balanced story that not only develops the story and gives you something to sink your teeth into in terms of the 'whodunnit' aspect, but it also has strong character development so you learn more about the characters as you go along which is a very satisfying way of getting to know the people behind the story.  Some people may not like the way Booker has used the tool of visiting the past in some of the chapters, but these glimpses of the past inform the reader about who Morgan and Danny are and where their friendship has come from - and he does it very very well.  I can't wait to read the next book in the series and see if Booker can keep up the quality of the series - because I really liked Morgan Vine and her world.


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Reviewed by Brilla

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