Jake Reese is an ordinary guy with an ordinary job, trying to block out the memory of his violent past by planning for the future with his new wife, Diane. But the past has a habit of refusing to stay buried…When two men attack Jake in a car park and cut off his ring finger, he tries to dismiss it as an unlucky case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But when events take a more sinister turn and Diane goes missing, Jake knows he can no longer hide from the truth. As he embarks on a mission to find Diane, Jake finds himself dragged back into the life he thought he had walked away from forever and the days ahead begin to unfold in terrifying ways…
A little over a year ago I read and reviewed Cold Kiss by John Rector, a dark tale of two strangers who make one mistake after another – a book I incidentally loved – when they stumble across a stranger in a bar. A classic Noir title, Cold Kiss is as strong a debut as you could hope for so it was with eager anticipation I began reading his latest title Already Gone a few days ago and although not in the same vein as Cold Kiss it was one of the quickest reads I’ve had in 2011. If ever there was a book I would class as “I couldn’t put that down” this year, Already Gone is without doubt at the top of that category.
The book is a veritable page turner and, set at an enviable pace, it just begs to be read. The narrative is crisp, well written and delivered at such a breakneck speed that I finished the book in a little under two nights and a session in the gym; talking to other reviewers I’m not on my own either. The story itself is incredibly well crafted and together with imaginative characters and a number of unexpected twists and turns I’m positive Already Gone will be received with as much enthusiasm as his first title last year.
Written in the first person narrative we follow the protagonist – Jake Reese – through his ups and downs, both mentally and physically, as he attempts to make sense of his wife’s unexpected disappearance and the attack he suffers in the opening scenes of the book when, unaware he is being followed back to his car, he is savagely attacked.
For the most part, despite being married to Diane, in a decent job and seemingly everything to live for, Jake Reese has a fairly negative outlook on life. I guess having your finger chopped off in a dark car park while your friends continue to drink inside could have an adverse effect on one’s mind but I feel his attitude and occasional lack of confidence is something that has always been brewing just below the surface.
As I walked out, I didn’t see the two guys at the bar, and I didn’t notice anyone following me. Once outside, everything was quiet and dark. There was a soft breeze passing through the trees lining the parking lot, and the late summer air felt cool against my skin.
I took the keys from my pocket and started walking. I was almost to my car when I heard footsteps coming up fast. I turned, but it was too late. One of them hit me across the face, hard, and for an instant everything faded. Then the pain focused me and I started swinging. It was two against one, but I still managed to get in a few good shots before they took me down.
Jake constantly questions his relationship with his wife, over analysing some of her responses during a conversation but he does have the odd moment of clarity when he puts a positive spin on things! I should also add that he tend to analyse nearly every conversation he has with anyone he meets and given the book heavily relies on dialogue it happens quite a lot, he certainly isn’t the most assured of characters!
He likes his drink and although he attempts to clean up his act once his wife vanishes, it doesn’t last long and Jake is tempted to hit the bottle once again. Jake sets out to find Diane and along the way stumbles upon a life and relationships he was unaware existed. His world is thrown into turmoil and he begins to question his own sanity and wonder who – if anyone – he can trust.
I didn’t find Already Gone as dark as Cold Kiss but it holds the imagination and attention well and the ending was completely unexpected, Rector leading you down one path, hooking you in, and just when you think you have it all figured out he twists things around and delivers a terrific and imaginative denouement. The best way I could describe Already Gone is a moody and pacy thriller with an attitude to match. If you haven’t read John Rector before I urge you to get down to your local bookshop and read his work, you won’t be sorry, I never am. Terrific stuff.