Faber and Faber £12.99

Review: Gone Again, By Doug Johnstone

Quiet thriller with a hero who's more everyman than superman

Imagine that Jack Reacher, the leading man in Lee Child's action-packed thrillers, was married. What would Jack do if his wife disappeared? No one who gets in his way would remain un-punched; there would be bodies piling up and blood on the floor. Huge fight scenes, very short sentences. Readers would, if they're anything like me, follow all this with a vicarious thrill – how satisfying it would be to cut a swathe through your enemies with two shovel-sized fists and face no repercussions.

In reality, being crazed with worry, trying desperately to find your wife, and throwing punches at the wrong people would see you in a very tight spot indeed. At least, that's the experience of Mark Douglas, the protagonist in Doug Johnstone's fifth novel, Gone Again. Not only is Mark more of an everyman than a superman, he also has a young son, Nathan, to look after while he tries to find out where his wife, Lauren, has gone.

In fact, the first inkling that something is, if not wrong, then amiss, comes from Nathan's school: "It's just to say that no one has come to pick Nathan up from school, that's all, and we were wondering if there was a problem of some kind."

At first it's an inconvenience, but as all Mark's calls to Lauren's mobile go answered, he starts to worry – not least because she vanished once before, right after Nathan was born. Where is she now? Will she come back? Mark has his suspicions, about her past as well as the future. But his own history – he's got one hell of a temper – means that the police become extremely interested in what he was doing on the day that Lauren left work and never came back.

As thrillers go, Gone Again's plot isn't fiendishly deceptive, or out to confound you at every point. Neither is it an against-the-clock adventure with the future of the world at stake. Its appeal lies in a certain quietness; that it is more about one family's trauma than a larger, more explosive chain of events. It's a very honest book about love and loss – the loss of youth, the loss of innocence, and the loss of trust. Despite his flaws, Mark is a doting father, and alongside his anger and anguish over Lauren's disappearance, and his raging at anyone he feels is standing in the way of finding her, there are charming and funny moments that capture what being a parent is all about. What is the Tooth Fairy's current pricing policy? Is Darth Vader in part a goody, because he saves Luke at the end of Star Wars? Frankly, I can't imagine Jack Reacher being much cop at tackling either of those dilemmas.

As a reader whose knowledge of Edinburgh begins and ends with Inspector Rebus, it is fascinating to see that city through Mark's eyes. While he and Lauren met in a city-centre bar as wildish young things, their lives as parents are punctuated by walks on Portobello pier. It's here that Mark, while photographing a seemingly doomed group of whales in his job as a freelance newspaper photographer, first gets the call that tells him Lauren has failed to pick up their son, and it's where he is repeatedly tested by the implications of his wife's vanishing act.

In Mark Douglas, Johnstone has created a man who feels very real, and one who has, and fights for, the one thing that a certain Mr Reacher doesn't have – a family.

Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
exhibition Gillian Orr traces the movement from Bram Stoker to Kate Bush
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

TV
Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?