Then She Was Gone | Luca Veste | 2016 (eBook: 28 July, Pb: 1 December) | Simon & Schuster | 448p | Review copy | Buy the book
Tim Johnson is taking his baby daughter Molly for a walk when he is attacked. When he comes to his senses, Molly is gone. But when, in a frantic panic, Tim reports Molly missing to the police nobody believes him. As far as they’re concerned, there is no baby daughter, there is no absent mother. It is all in Tim’s imagination. And there is nothing whatsoever he can do about it. Some time later, Sam Byrne is on the point of being elected as a Tory MP in Liverpool, a remarkable feat – not just for his rightwing politics in a leftwing city but also because of his youth. A great future is forecast for this young man. All that is to change when Sam disappears. Everyone agrees that his absence is totally out of character. But, whatever the reason, Sam is gone.
DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi from Liverpool’s Major Crime Unit are given the Sam Byrne case to solve but it’s no easy matter. Byrne, the son of a retired MP himself, is protected by a political shell and nobody wants to do anything to harm the reputation of this golden boy. But the more that Murphy and Rossi dig, the more secrets they uncover and they go back years. Someone somewhere has vengeance on their mind.
Then She Was Gone is the fourth novel in Luca Veste’s excellent Murphy and Rossi series and, of the three I’ve read, this is by far my favourite. An achievement indeed. The structure is supremely intricate and confident, with several leads weaving in and out of its page-turning plot. I was fascinated by the thought of where this novel would take me. There are so many surprises along the way but these aren’t presented as attention-grabbing twists. Instead, they’re part of the novel’s natural development as characters and their story lines grow. It is extremely well done – entertaining and surprising but also very clever and pleasingly complex.
Murphy and Rossi are such a pleasure to spend time with. Each has their distinct character but as a partnership they shine. Both have complications in their private life and, while it’s been Murphy who’s had to suffer the most in recent books, now it’s the time for Rossi’s large Italian family to cause her worry.
The City of Liverpool is the other main character in these novels and it plays such an important role, providing colour and humour as well as that Scouse Noir mood that helps to give these books such a distinctive flavour.
I love a crime novel that makes me think and Then She Was Gone most certainly does. You need to keep your wits alive as we move among a rich cast of characters, following a host of red herrings, all in the excellent company of Murphy and Rossi. This series continues to go from strength to strength. Long may it continue.