I don't even know if there is such a word as anti-heroine. There are certainly enough of them around especially in Victorian fiction - Lady Audley, Miss Gwilt, and the villainous maid, Hortense, of Bleak House spring easily to mind. There's another modern one fit to join them, as I discovered when I read Mary Torjussen's psychological thriller Gone without a trace.

There's plenty of Scandi Noir atmosphere about this thriller, though Torjussen is actually British, and hails from the Wirral, where much of Gone without a trace is set. High-flyer Hannah returns home from a conference in Oxford with some good news - it looks as though she's in line for a promotion - she can't wait to tell her long-term boyfriend, Matt. But when she gets home Matt is gone, there's no sign that he ever existed. Even his mother has disappeared. So, what's going on? As Hannah's life and sanity begin to unravel, the reader's mind skips through all sorts of scenarios, except (probably) for the correct one. There's a real twist in the tail of this novel, which makes for a truly unsettling ending.

It's a clever novel with nods to writers such as Patricia Highsmith. It also deals with domestic violence in a way in which I had never come across in fiction before, and I feel it should be applauded for that. The odd thing is though, that I can't honestly say that I enjoyed it. Enjoyed just doesn't seem the right word for a novel that was compulsively readable, un-putdownable in fact; but also a profoundly uncomfortable read.

Cleverly written and often deeply disturbing, Gone without a trace is certainly unforgettable.


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