I was given a free copy of this novel by Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review as part of a blog tour.
Gone Without a Trace caught my interest right from the start. A Prologue introduces us in the first paragraph to a nameless male out on a lake near Logan Point, Tennessee, just before midnight with his motor “hardly [breaking] the deathly quiet of the first hours of the New Year”. The words “deathly quiet” are an ominous foreshadowing of what the man is doing and what lies ahead in the novel, where, despite his early introduction, his identity is carefully concealed until the kidnapper/killer is cornered in the final pages of the novel.
Livy Reynolds from Logan Point, works as a detective on the Memphis police force with her partner, Mac, who thinks of her as a partner first, and a little sister second. She’s haunted by a shooting a few months earlier where she killed a teenager who had robbed a convenience store with a toy gun. After freezing on the job, and getting Mac shot, Livy takes a leave of absence and returns to Logan Point to her Aunt Kate’s B & B, where she was raised after her mother died.
She meets Alex Jennings from Texas who has been hired to find Samantha Jo Woodson, a popular waitress who has disappeared from the local diner. The case reminds Livy of the disappearance of her cousin Robyn two years earlier and, with the idea the two cases might be related, she teams with Alex (good-looking, sweet P.I. with family problems and his own airplane) hoping to finally resolve her own family drama and restore Robyn to her husband, Chase, and daughter, Abby. Both women were waitresses at a truck stop called Johnny B’s, and Livy and Alex soon learn from Sheriff Ben Logan that numerous waitresses have disappeared in an area covered by many of the truckers that frequent Johnny B’s, including several local drivers.
Both families featured in this gripping tale (I read it in a day), are Christians living in realistic situations where they sometimes question where God is when certain things happen. They have faith and a support system, but sometimes doubt that “all things will work toward good for those who love the Lord”. Livy particularly questions how God could have let her be in that store during the robbery, and in that alley with a kid who was only holding a toy gun; it’s hard to accept that it was the boy’s decisions that took him there and that she was only doing her job. Alex is from a very wealthy, political family in Texas. His mother left rather than knuckle under to powerful pressure to be someone she was not, and Alex is now experiencing similar pressure to take the bar exam and join the family law firm — something he definitely doesn’t want to do! Also, after seeing first-hand the disaster of his parents’ marriage, he has studiously avoided any relationship that might lead him down the same path.
The characters in the story are extremely believable and the plot weaves back and forth between the undercover operation unfolding in the truck stop, and the killer/ kidnapper and his clever efforts to observe the local news, divert attention from Logan Point, and pressure his latest victim into giving in to his pleas for her to be his “Sharon”. The police procedures in the investigation seem to be solid, and the tension builds consistently throughout the story as bystanders begin to get caught up in the danger, as the killer starts to spiral out of control.
Gone Without a Trace is Ms. Bradley’s 4th book to date, the third in her Logan Point series. It is available at Amazon and other fine book sellers. * * * * *