*I received a free ARC of this book, with thanks to the author, Transworld Books – Random House UK and NetGalley. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Four strangers are missing. Left at their last-known locations are birthday cards that read:
YOUR GIFT IS THE GAME.
DARE TO PLAY?
The police aren’t worried – it’s just a game. But the families are frantic. As psychologist and private detective Dr Augusta Bloom delves into the lives of the missing people, she finds something that binds them all.
And that something makes them very dangerous indeed.
As more disappearances are reported and new birthday cards uncovered, Dr Bloom races to unravel the mystery and find the missing people.
But what if, this time, they are the ones she should fear?
I was completely hooked from the very beginning of this chilling thriller!
The concept of a sinister Game, designed for and played by some of the most dangerous individuals in society, for unknown stakes and goal… the whole thing is equally terrifying and fascinating.
Aside from the thrill of the danger and puzzling out the mysteries, I really enjoyed the psychological exploration of psychopathy: its root cause, traits and potential for treatment. The story explores this from more than one viewpoint, as we follow Dr Augusta Bloom on the clinician side of the fence and get glimpses into various Game players, as well as an interesting parallel view via Seraphine – a teenage girl with some distinctive thought patterns and disturbing behaviours.
With such insights, the monsters are humanised, and yet somehow that does not make the situation any less scary!
The plot is easy to follow, but not so easy to guess ahead, and builds to a satisfyingly dramatic climax, which involves brains and strength from our main characters, but also psychological dexterity and deep friendship. Finally, the ending leaves us on something of a cliffhanger which left me NEEDING more.
Definitely a nail-biter for fans of psychological thrillers!
She doesn’t believe me, Seraphine thought. Dropping her gaze and hunching her shoulders, she sank down in her chair and picked at the skin around her fingernails. I’m a fourteen-year-old girl and I’m scared. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. I was just trying to help my friend and now I’m being interrogated.
For a moment she worried she’d failed to pull it off. Maybe her posture was wrong or her expression not quite right. Police officers were trained to spot a fraud.
But then Watkins folded up her paperwork. ‘OK, that’s enough for now. We’ll take a break and PC Felix here will show you where the canteen is.’ Watkins looked at Seraphine’s mother. ‘Something to eat will help with the shock.’ Then she looked back at Seraphine, her smile warm, ‘And then we’ll speak again.’
Seraphine nodded. I’m a vulnerable teenager in shock. I’m a vulnerable teenager in shock. She found it helped to repeat the words in her head.
Watkins stood and turned away. Seraphine relaxed. This was going to be a breeze.
– Leona Deakin, Gone
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