Black Swan | 2019 (Pb: 12 December, ebook: 9 August) | 384p | Review copy | Buy the book
Four strangers have disappeared, all celebrating their birthdays. Each had received a birthday card, wishing them a happy first birthday with a message inside daring them to play a game. And then they vanished. Are they dead or have they left willingly? Why would they leave their families, their children? Who is in control of the game and what do they want? The police aren’t interested. These are all consenting adults. In desperation, the daughter of one of the missing approaches psychologist and private detective Dr Augusta Bloom, urging her and her colleague, ex-MI6 Marcus Jameson, to find her mother. Then suddenly the husband of one of the missing is murdered and then the police can’t help but take notice, inviting Bloom and Jameson to help them crack the game. They soon discover that far more than four people are missing. There are over a hundred. Some may even have been returned. The mystery grows more puzzling and more sinister by the day.
Gone is Leona Deakin’s debut novel and, trying very hard not to give anything away, it takes a familiar theme and turns it upside down. We’re used to seeing psychologists investigating crimes but Augusta Bloom is an unusual and intriguing woman. Not even her closest friend Marcus is allowed to get too close. As a pair, they complement each other perfectly. I did like Marcus in particular, with his mysterious unmentionable MI6 past. But there is more to this novel that makes it original and rather unusual. It’s thought-provoking and cleverly done.
But while I appreciated the novel’s cleverness and enjoyed its twisty tale, there is something rather joyless about the way in which it’s told. This may well be intentional but I found it a cold novel and, with the exception of Marcus, found it difficult to warm to anybody. My sense of dissatisfaction was compounded by the fact that I worked it all out very early on.
But, having said all that, what did keep me reading and paying close attention right to the end is the way that I couldn’t help but become immersed in Bloom’s dedicated drive to discover the truth and do the right thing. She faces puzzles along the way and I liked watching her work things out, all based on her in-depth and very interesting insight into human nature. Leona Deakin has clearly done her research.
Gone is a clever and intriguing novel – a psychological novel with a difference – and is certainly thought-provoking and pleasingly puzzling. I hope and suspect that future novels may well have more of that sparkle, that indefinable something, that is missing here.
Note: this novel was previously advertised as Mind Games.