Thursday, September 14, 2017


Title: Gone Without A Trace
Author: Mary Torjussen
Publisher: Headline
Pages: 352

What I liked about this book was the slow and steady pace with which the reliable narrator turned unreliable. I also liked the basic premise of the book: What the heroine does when she discovers that her boyfriend has just walked out of her life? No explanations granted.

Unfortunately, the resolution didn't feel convincing to me.

Gone without a Trace by Mary Torjussen is written in the first person past tense point of view of Hannah Monroe, a 32-year-old successful accountant. Returning from a conference at which her work is highly commended and the senior management hints that she is going to be promoted, Hannah returns home in high spirits only to find out that her world has altered in the last few days.

At first, she thinks her home has been broken into, and that her live-in boyfriend of four years, Matt Stone, has met with foul play. After all, the relationship was going great. There were issues, of course, but which couple does not? There was no reason for him to have walked out.

But gradually, Hannah moves from a stage of denial to acceptance. She concedes that Matt has walked out on her. That he has taken away everything that had belonged to him; every single thing he had bought or owned is missing, down to the coffee beans, bottle of ketchup and jar of Marmite. He has also re-arranged her things exactly as they were before he moved into her home.

When she tries to call him, she is shocked to learn that his name has disappeared from her phone contacts. Worse, his emails have disappeared from her mailbox. When she calls him, the number, she learns, has been invalidated.

She cannot even begin to imagine what might have prompted this deliberate act of removing himself from her life. Distraught and desperate for an explanation for this bizarre behaviour, Hannah turns to Katie, her best friend since they were five, and Katie’s boyfriend, James, with whom Hannah had been in a relationship at age 17, for help.

Matt’s disappearance sends Hannah into a downward spiral, causing her to lose her focus at work. Everything points to the fact that her obsession with finding the truth about what happened to Matt is slowly driving her mad. Soon she becomes aware that somebody is entering her house, making subtle but perceptible changes.

At work, Sam, her friend, and Lucy, her assistant, are very supportive, even as her other colleagues and bosses view the change within Hannah with distaste. But gradually, even they began to act strange around her. To make things worse, Ray and Sheila, the next door neighbours, are horrible and distasteful.

Hannah gets disturbing messages from an unrecognized number. In an environment in which she can’t really trust anyone, not even Katie and James, she loses her health and runs the risk of losing her job and her sanity.
But what really is the truth? Are her suspicions true or is she hallucinating?

Before long, I found myself engaged with Hannah’s problems. We feel sorry for her initially. She seems so close to having it all, and then her boyfriend’s disappearance tips her over the edge.

There is some drama with her parents going on that we never fully understand. Her dad is a serial cheat in their marriage, and her mother is too secretive.

There are very few characters in this book, but none you like; none that grow on you. The only character for whom I felt even a shred of sympathy was Hannah’s mother, but the author lets us spend so little time with her that we feel as if we barely know her.

Everyone is lying.

Hannah can trust no one.

Interestingly, neither can we.

Hannah’s reliability, as a narrator, takes a fierce downturn to the point where we aren’t sure what part of all that she has revealed is true, if at all.

I found Hannah’s friendship with Katie strange. It was shocking to see the kind of relationship that the two best friends had. There was so much insecurity in it, and jealousy, and a total lack of any friendly feeling. They were always rushing out to buy anything new that the other one bought or received. It was unhealthy and rather unsettling.

There were also far too many flashbacks, many of them unrelated to Matt. There were several relating to James, and Katie, but the bits about her parents and their marriage, which would have given us a better idea of the kind of person that she is, were far too sparse.

The author gives us excruciating detail about every moment of Hannah’s day, and that became annoying to read about, after a while. But then I figured that a woman who had had such a shock might justifiably seek consolation in routine.

The ending was only slightly unexpected for me.

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