One line of Gone sums it up beautifully:
“Everything about this case had the dank, fetid smell of defeat about it.”
Gone piles it on, piles it up. And the case does get fetid, almost quite literally. Subterranean funky.
A “simple” case of a missing girl gets big, messy, sloppy and ugly. There’s something very organic about Mo Hayder’s writing that is appealing. She is telling a story.
Gone is 99 percent story, 1 percent flash.
This is my first novel by Hayder so I didn’t have the back story of Detective Jack Caffrey and diver Sergeant Flea Marley, but Hayder lets us in on their secrets (and there is one especially dark one in there).
The one character who could probably use a bit more set-up is the so-called “Walking Man,” who serves as a source of insight and inspiration for Caffrey, but you quickly catch on. (I highly recommend the bit of back story here on Hayder’s web site about “Walking Man.” That will help.)
Caffrey operates from a familiar frame of mind for a detective: “Every person in the world had habits…..from the obsessive compulsive who had to count every pea he ate, every light switch he touched, down to the drifter who seemed to have no aim and no direction and yet could always find a good place to make camp and sleep. Everyone moved in patterns to some degree or another. Those patterns might be all but invisible, even to the persons themselves, but they were there, nonetheless.”
In Gone, the search is for a “jacker” who kidnaps young girls and toys with his pursuers, jerking them around. Then, Flea Marley goes missing and, for Caffrey, the stakes grow higher.
We know where Hayder is and what she’s up to, however, and her plight is also very much in jeopardy as she finds herself trapped deep in the bowels of the Sapperton Canal Tunnel. Additional recommended reading on the Sapperton history here or keep it handy, to picture the access shafts and get your mind around the length and size of this piece of centuries-old engineering.
I wonder if Hayder wasn’t inspired by the sheer scale and darkness of Sapperton.
If so, she succeeded.