The topic of gone without a trace, disappeared and vanished has been featured in many movies and has been written about in countless psychological thriller novels so far. It is a very popular and catchy subject, so it’s not surprising that every movie script and book manages to add its own unique take on the theme.
The movie that is still with me after all these years is The Vanishing with Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland, released in 1993. As I’ve soon learned, much to my surprise, even this movie is an American adaptation of an even older Franco-Dutch film on the same theme from 1988.
As for books, who can forget the classic Gone Girl, which even four years after its release is still on various bestsellers lists, including the one from New York Times.
When Penguin Random House asked me to read and review Gone Without A Trace by Mary Torjussen, I had no hesitation in accepting the book because I love this particular subject and I knew that I’d thoroughly enjoy it.
The book starts on a very happy note. Hannah, a successful manager at a large accounting firm is away on training in Oxford where she learns the good news that her much sought after promotion is quite within reach. She sings joyfully on the drive home because she can’t wait to share with Matt, her boyfriend of four years, the good news.
As she enters the house she realizes something is not right. And as she walks from room to room she notices something odd. All Matt’s things are gone – completely gone – and are replaced with her old things from the time when she was still single.
Not only that, but when she tries to call him, she can’t find his phone number or stored name anywhere on her phone. Her iPad misses all their common photos and Facebook and other social media have no profile stored for him at all.
Matt has disappeared. Seemingly without a trace.
At this point my mind was making all sorts of scenarios about his disappearance: he was killed, abducted, placed under witness protection. Maybe Hannah dreamed his existence in the first place. One by one, however, my theories got thrown under the rug as Hannah discovered bits and pieces about Matt. Not much, mind you, but enough to know that something weird was really going on.
Hannah becomes obsessed about Matt. She searches for him everywhere: his workplace, his parents, his friends. Her work starts to deteriorate and her promised promotion turns into suspension when she misses deadlines for several clients, comes late at work and can’t keep her head straight.
At this point I really felt for Hannah. I couldn’t help but think of what would I do if my husband ever disappeared like this.
Soon, however, hidden things start to come to surface, which bring that awaited twist to light. And what a twist that is! I didn’t see it coming, but I’m glad to file it under ‘another original twist on the vanished theme’.
And the ending. Wow. The ending. Well, I won’t spoil it, but this ending gave me a pause and strongly reminded me of the ending of many horror movies and books.
Being a psychological thriller, Gone Without A Trace is not your usual crime mystery novel with loads of bodies to autopsy and a serial killer to chase. It is a book where the journey is way more interesting than the destination.
In getting to know the people in this universe we start to ask the question: do we really know our friends as much as we thought we did? It is quite a fundamental question to ask, one that is relevant to each of us, not only in fiction, but also in real life.
The book stays true to the psychological thriller genre and it’s so well and engagingly written that I have to recommend it as a worthy successor to Gone Girl.