Book review: Without Trace by Simon Booker

Without Trace bySimon Booker
Without Trace bySimon Booker
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For four years journalist Morgan Vine has campaigned for the release of her childhood sweetheart who was convicted of murdering his stepdaughter… but is he the same man she fell in love with?

Author and screenwriter Simon Booker, who has worked on long-running TV series including The Inspector Lynley Mysteries and Holby City, plays a blinder in his gripping debut novel, a brilliantly clever psychological thriller about a woman torn between her past and present.

Packed with spine-tingling tension and riveting action sequences that play out with all the visual energy and drama of a television thriller, Without Trace is the first of what promises to be an unmissable new series featuring the delectable Morgan Vine.

Morgan, 37, has invested much of her emotional energy on gaining the release of her childhood sweetheart Danny Kilcannon who was convicted, on dubious evidence, of killing his 15-year-old stepdaughter Zoe with a claw hammer, and is still implicated in the disappearance of his wife at the same time.

To keep close contact with him, Morgan runs a book club at Dungeness Prison where Danny is an inmate. No one there knows that she has a past history that binds her with Danny, a man who exudes an inner stillness and swears he is innocent of the crime.

Morgan had always dreamed of being a high-flying journalist but her ambitions were dashed by pregnancy and single motherhood. So now she is a low-profile freelance, hacking out articles on C-list celebrities.

When a key witness in the original trial recants, Danny’s conviction is finally quashed and he is released from prison. With nowhere else to go, he relies on Morgan and her 18-year-old daughter, Lissa, a spoilt teen who is back from Los Angeles after staying with her wealthy, philandering father.

But then Lissa goes missing and with her own child now at risk, Morgan must re-think all she knows about her old flame Danny and as the media storm around Lissa’s disappearance intensifies and shocking revelations emerge, she is forced to confront the ultimate question… who can she really trust?

Fast-moving, atmospheric, packed with startling twists, cunning red herrings, an intriguing cast of characters and a back story that weaves perfectly into the present, Without Trace explores how far we can trust those around us.

And in Morgan Vine we have a seductive new star… a complex, determined and yet achingly vulnerable woman whose domestic duties and instincts vie with her latent ambitions and desire to take her journalistic career to new heights.

An impressive start to an exciting new thriller series…

(twenty7, paperback, £7.99)