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Wednesday, March 22, 2017


4 stars out of 5

Oy vey - what a collection of unpleasant and downright disturbed (and disturbing) characters! But I guess that's the point; getting into their heads is what makes this a "novel of psychological suspense," as the official description rightly says.

It begins with central character and narrator Hannah Monroe, whose live-in lover, Matt, suddenly goes missing - totally. He's taken away every single item he brought to her house when he moved in plus anything even remotely associated with him. He's even deleted all references to him on Hannah's computer and cell phone; it's as if he never even existed. Hannah, an extremely successful (but clearly neurotic) accountant, starts going even more mentally bonkers as she tries to figure out what happened, why he left and whether he will return to her and when. The only way those questions can be answered, she reasons, is by confronting him personally. So, forsaking everything and everyone else in her life, she turns her own into a full-on awake nightmare as she tries to track him down. 

Let me amend that; with Hannah, there is no reasoning. Absolutely everyone, including her childhood friend Katie, Katie's boyfriend James (at one time Hannah's boyfriend), her mother, father and even next-door neighbors is out to get her and cannot be trusted. Her thoughts as she works her way through the why did he/they, why didn't he/they, why should he/they, why shouldn't he/they, etc., are outlined in almost excruciating detail in every chapter. About halfway through, in fact, I almost gave up - thinking I couldn't bear another 150 pages or so of her constant (and I do mean constant) second-guessing of everyone's motives for disrupting her very existence.

That's not to say, however, that she isn't at least partly right (bringing to mind that well-known joke, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you"). She's always, for instance, had issues with Katie, who appears to have developed a serious case of Hannah-envy back when they were kids. And Hannah's parents' relationship can't be called ideal (and certainly not conducive to their daughter's stress-free childhood). 

And make no mistake: it is Hannah's ad nauseam ruminating that is central to the psychological "pull" of the story. Little by little, layers of Hannah's mind and those of her friends and family are peeled away, giving up insights as to what they think is going on and prompting me to keep reading even though I was happy that all these misfits are confined to a single book with no chance to ruin others I may want to read.

So whose "reality" is real? Now that I've finished, I'm not sure I know the answer to that question - especially since the trip through the pages in many ways blew my own mind. If you want to chance messing with yours, give this one a try. Many thanks to the publisher, via NetGalley, for providing an advance copy to read and review. Whew!

Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen (Berkley, April 2017); 352 pp.

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