Sunday, 28 July 2013


Having thoroughly enjoyed a couple of crackers by Doug Johnstone in the form of Hit And Run and Smokeheads, I was pretty excited about Gone Again.

Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get quite the same feeling about this book.

Hit And Run and Smokeheads grabbed me from the off.  They land smack in the middle of the action and never let up.

Gone Again has a rather different feel.

It’s a much gentler start and, even though the situation of a woman going missing while husband and child try to cope without her has lots of dramatic implications, I didn’t really feel them.

Mark Douglas finds himself in a difficult position with just about everyone when he realises his wife has disappeared.  He’s at odds with the school, his wife’s colleagues, his mother-in-law, his son and the police. As things become clearer and the plot thickens the tension builds to some extent.

All the ingredients of a thrilling read are there and I’m not sure why I didn’t really get involved with the characters or their situation.

The opening concentrates on the domestic setting.  It’s well done in the sense that it’s pretty realistic, but that might be one of the issues.  The dialogue between father and son and the things that happen are so ‘real’ that they lack a little something for me.  The thoughts of Mark as a father are thoughts I’ve had and the pressures of parenting are all-too-familiar.  

This one also has a little more fat that the lean prose I’ve become used to.  It’s a little diluted in some way, so the flavours weren’t strong.

There was enough in the story to keep me going to the end as I did want to find out what had happened and I’m glad I stuck at it.  It does all become more active and interesting, yet I still wasn’t fully there.

I wouldn’t want to put anyone off reading this, though.  I know the author can work magic and just because it didn’t happen for me here doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.

If you’re put off by this review, try one of the others I mention.  If you’re not, try them anyway and you’ll have a treat in store when you get to them.

Sadly, for Gone Again, I feel it was me who was missing in action.


  1. I do agree with some of what you say Nigel, Gone Again wasn't what I have become used to from Johnstone, a writer I really rate. However, I found this book so terrifying at times, I could hardly read on. The fear for me came from the ordinary - this could actually happen and I was terrified for Mark. The story fed straight into my paranoia of 'I didn't do anything wrong but everybody is blaming me anyway and there is no way out.' Really freaked me out.
    I also felt that Johnstone wrote very well about pain and loss. This wasn't shown in any black and white way, but all the messy parts in-between that shows a deep understanding and honesty about humanity.
    I also think Johnstone managed to capture the child's voice very well, which I think is very hard to do. Trying to deal with his own grief while also trying to look after a child who doesn't understand what is happening was written extremely well. Again I was very scared every time the boy ended up in his father's bed - a totally understandable reaction from a small boy whose mother has gone missing, but knowing what I do about social workers, I just kept thinking that this was going to come back and bite him.
    It's a while now since I read it, but it's stayed with me, I can still feel the pain and terror.

    Saying all that, there's other books that people really 'get' and I don't manage past the first chapter...tat's the beauty of reading, you bring yourself to the words. As I was told at college when our class moaned to our lecturer about how we thought some classic of literature was 'boring'; the problem isn't with the book, it's just you that doesn't get it. And sometimes, I don't...but that's Ok because when I do, it's all the sweeter.

    Apologies for long comment ;-)

  2. I'm really pleased to get a long comment, especially after a negative review that I didn't want to post (and won't put up at Amazon or Goodreads et al).
    The child's voice was believable, but it just didn't catch me. I really can't explain that one - maybe it just felt like being in my house with my kids and having a chat in some way, so it was too familiar.
    I knew that there was pain and terror in there, too, but I just didn't feel it. Perhaps it's the emotional connection I missed and that's a big one for me.
    Having said those things,I hope more people get this on than don't and loads of folk buy it. That would be cool.

  3. I think being honest with your reviews is so important Nigel - don't be afraid to do that. :-)

  4. Nigel,

    I think this novel is an improvement over Hit & Run, which, for me, was a huge disappointment. The story in Gone Again was believable, unlike in Hit & Run.
    But the best Johnstone is Smokeheads. Just great.

  5. Thanks Ray. Doug sure splits opinion in terms of what his fans like by the looks of it.