Hall of Fame Review: Then She Was Gone by Luca Veste

Monday, 27 June 2016
Title: Then She Was Gone
Author: Luca Veste
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Publication Date: 28th July 2016
Pages: 448
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 5/5
Purchase: Amazon
Tim Johnson took his baby daughter out for a walk and she never made it home. Johnson claims he was assaulted and the girl was snatched. The police see a different crime, with Johnson their only suspect.

A year later, Sam Bryne is on course to be elected as one of the youngest MPs in Westminster. He's tipped for the very top ... until he vanishes.

Detectives Murphy and Rossi are tasked with discovering what has happened to the popular politician - and in doing so, they unearth a trail that stretches into the past, and crimes that someone is hell-bent on avenging.

It's no secret that I am a huge Luca Veste fan and Then She Was Gone was one of my most anticipated reads of 2016, and it didn't disappoint. It's not just because Luca is from Liverpool and sets his books in this fantastic city that I am calling him one of my favourite crime authors, but because he writes some of the most authentic, gripping and thought-provoking crime fiction out there. Each book is vastly different from the last, but at the same time contains everything that readers love about this series. Such as the continuing character development of two of the best main characters the genre has at the minute, detectives Murphy and Rossi, and a real, believable psychological insight into some damaged minds.

Unlike the previous books in this series, it did take me a little while to get into Then She Was Gone as it was very much a slow burner, but not in a boring way. Instead, the scene is set kind of mysteriously, first with claims from a man named Tim Johnson that his baby daughter was snatched and he was assaulted, despite their being no evidence to support his claims. And then the story jumps forward, and we see Murphy and Rossi being given a case which isn't the norm for them. A missing persons case, the missing person being Sam Bryne, one of the youngest MPs in Westminster. The reader is fed tidbits of information at the start that the police are unaware of, but we still remain as clueless as them for the most part as we follow a fed up Murphy and Rossi as they take on a case that at first seems very boring and political, but which soon becomes incredibly interesting.

The reader learns a lot about Sam Byrne as the book progresses and it soon becomes clear that he wasn't a very nice person and as such, I found it hard to really care about whether or not he was safe, or even alive. Instead, I was more interested in why he went missing, and learning more about his history at university in Liverpool where he and his friends were, quite frankly, despicable people. His image in the press is a lot different to the one that the reader is reading about and as a popular politician, Murphy and Rossi's boss wants the case solved yesterday. It's always uncomfortable to witness behaviour like this as because Sam is a politician his case suddenly becomes more important than say someone who went missing from a crime-ridden area of Liverpool.

Murphy and Rossi are a brilliant duo. They really shine for the first section of the book. Their banter, the Scouse humour. Everything just feels very natural and believable, and they work so well together. It was however only a matter of time before Luca threw a spanner into the works and their relationship is really tested in this book. I love following them around the city that I too know so well, and I also shared in some of their observations. For example the area of Scotland Road and the surrounding area. Areas I know all too well. We get to see a different side to the city in Then She Was Gone as we meet Sam's family. I remember the first time I saw bigger houses than I was used to, 'posher' houses, and how I couldn't believe it was in the same city as to what was just around the corner. The divide is clear, and it's portrayed believably here by Luca. Both the personal and family relationships of the detectives are explored further in this book, and that's something I also enjoyed about it.

It's now clear that Luca is not just a one trick pony and this is now his fourth book and, comparing the four, each one is just so different from the last with a fresh story each time. It does sound like a stupid thing to say, but some authors in this genre I feel just churn out similar books year on year because they know they will fly off the shelves regardless and it's a very lazy and annoying tactic. Of all the series out there, this to me is one of the freshest, and I have to say that Luca is one of the best crime writers out there also. And there's zero Scouse bias in that statement, I know a phenomenal storyteller when I see (read) one. His psychological background is perhaps one of the things I like about this series most, even though Then She Was Gone probably had less of that than the other books. But still, it's a real insight into how people behave and how their actions can have long-lasting repercussions and so I think that psychological insight is definitely there, just a little bit more understated than in the previous books.

While I was reading Then She Was Gone, I had no idea how the story would unfold. Luca is a masterful storyteller and he had me gripped to this book throughout. It is an intricately woven tale and I was completely caught off guard sometimes with the twists and secrets that were revealed as I read. Because of the nature of some of the characters, it's literally a case of anyone could have done it and that really got my brain working. Emotionally the book also had an effect on me in terms of how things develop for our detective duo. Feeling as though you know these two characters personally, almost care for them even, means that when they are affected negatively or emotionally, or something bad happens to them, I really feel it as a reader and it's rare to feel things like that in a fictional tale. Just in case it isn't abundantly clear yet, I truly love this series and I will recommend it to people until I am blue in the face. I already cannot wait to see what Luca writes next and it's even more exciting because there's just no way of knowing what that's going to be because of how different each book has been (but I do hope the city's landmarks, good and bad, play an even bigger role in his next book), and don't ask me to pick a favourite. Oh, okay, I have a real soft spot for Dead Gone which if you haven't read it yet then I highly recommend that you do.

As this essay draws to a close I'll finish by saying that this is far and away one of my all-time favourite crime series, and I cannot recommend Luca's books enough. My aim now is to beat the anxiety and one day meet Luca and get my hands on a signed book! Maybe even this one as I finished it to see my name listed in the acknowledgements which was a very overwhelming but amazing feeling and I simply have to get my hands on a copy (I only keep books that I've truly loved). It's fantastic to see a local author achieving such great success in this genre and it's also incredibly exciting to read crime fiction of this standard set in Liverpool. Please go and get your hands on this series if you haven't discovered it yet and if you have discovered this series, I feel very confident that you will love this latest instalment, and apologies for the mild spoilers but I think regular readers know I tend to get a little bit carried away when I love a book. Yet again another book which proves why this year (and onwards) I am focusing 100% on books that I've loved.

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