I suppose that it should come as no surprise. Simon Booker’s debut crime novel Without Trace is a notably assured piece of work – and it’s a first novel that speaks of years of experience rather than tyro good luck — which is in fact the case, as Booker has been honing his skills as a television writer for many years. Hence (one guesses) his effortless his command of both plotting and dialogue (the latter particularly idiomatic – which is not something that can be said for many crime novels, debut or otherwise. Without Trace inaugurates a series of psychological thrillers with investigative journalist Morgan Vine (female, despite the male moniker), whose career can hardly be said to be flourishing. She lives in a converted railway carriage on the beach at Dungeness (a nice touch, this, which marks the book out from the competition), and she has spent a great deal of time campaigning for the release of Danny Kilcannon with whom she was in love when both were children. Danny has been arraigned for the murder of his stepdaughter, though Morgan has been unconvinced by the evidence. But then Danny is released, and Morgan’s own daughter vanishes – which instantly throws her into confusion concerning everything she thought she knew about her ex-sweetheart. Is he innocent — or a Machiavellian schemer who has pulled the wool over her eyes? The plot is in fact based on real-life encounters in Simon Booker’s life, but it isn’t that fact which grants the book its verisimilitude – it’s the writer’s authoritative control of his medium. Those making the acquaintance of the tenacious, conflicted Morgan Vine will be perfectly happy to spend more time in her eventful company.

Without Trace by Simon Booker is available on Kindle from Amazon

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