What is this about?: Audra is escaping her husband and a custody battle with her kids when a sheriff pulls her over. He arrests her when he finds a bag of marijuana in her car, and to her horror uses that to separate her from her kids. The next thing she knows they’ve disappeared and everyone believes she’s murdered them.
What else is this about?: Audra, from the woman she was to what she becomes by the end of the book is the backbone of the narrative, in a way. You know how I love flashbacks right? Well these actually worked a treat!
Blurb: Here and Gone is a gripping, wonderfully tense suspense thriller about a mother’s desperate fight to recover her stolen children from corrupt authorities.. It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them… Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.
When Here and Gone opens, Audra is already desperate — she is in a car, on the run with her kids in the back seat and a few pages later she’s arrested and her kids are gone. And then Haylen Beck maintains that desperation through the book, leaving you exhausted by the end.
The plot of the book is pretty much what it says in the blurb, so as I started reading it, I realised the book hinged on Audra, on making her work as a character and making readers understand her — and that’s why the flashbacks actually make sense.
So Audra is arrested, and given that a sheriff and a deputy are the ones that planted marijuana on her, arrested her and then took her kids, it quickly becomes clear that she’s pretty much knocking her head against walls that are closing in around her and she has no hope of escaping them. She is blasted by the media, and into this grubby fray comes her estranged husband Patrick.
He’s an ass. He’s an abusive ass to be exact, and that’s what the flashbacks show. Beck delves into how Audra met him, how much she wanted their relationship to work, his abuse and her own addictions. Their history is messy and painful, and the desperation apparent in the book from the very first pages makes sense. As does the determination in Audra in the present to find her children. They saved her — from her husband and an overbearing mother-in-law, with a creepy relationship with her son.
And this is why she agrees to let Danny help her. Danny knows Audra’s story, he’s lived it — or rather, his wife Mya did 5 years ago. He comes to find Audra, offering his help when no-one else does.
Tension, atmosphere and lots of yelling
Granted the yelling was in my head, but it was there! Audra’s frustration and desperation is palpable in the face of sheriff and the deputy and the media who have already convicted her even before anyone has investigated their disappearance.
There is genuinely nowhere for her to turn, and had Danny not appeared she would have been lost. He gives her determination and anger a direction, I think, simply because he’s been living this case for far longer, as well as the own particular skills he brings to her search. He’s enough to tip the balance in her favour a little, but I appreciate that Beck maintained Audra’s character, letting her evolve into someone who would do anything for her kids — and does — by the end.
Sean and Louise
It’ll quickly become clear why these kids have been taken, but what I did not expect was how much of a focus Beck would give to the kids, Sean especially. The thing to remember is that for all the abuse Audra suffered, so did her kids in a way, especially Sean who remembers what their life with their father was like. In captivity, he takes charge as best he can and you’ll cheer him on as he tries to make his escape with Louisa. This is a capable, resourceful kid, who’s had to grow up far too soon.
In here and gone Haylen Beck makes an impossibly terrifying situation realistic, which actually makes it all the more terrifying. Tension and frustration (mainly my own as I will Audra to find a way out) are maintained in the book, with Beck increasing it more and more as you turn the page.
What book has made you scream in frustration — in a good way?!