As a founder member of Mystery Women in 1997, promoting Crime Fiction has always been my passion.
Following the closure of Mystery Women, a new group was formed on 30th January 2012 promoting crime fiction.
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Published by Harvill Secker, 10 August 2017. ISBN: 978-1-91121556-1(HB)
Published by Vintage, 3 May 2018.
ISBN: 978-178470585-5 (PB)
Audra Kinney is on
the run, her two children, 10-year-old Sean and six-year-old Louise, with her.
It’s days since they left her abusive husband Patrick behind in New York and
headed for California and her old friend Mel. Now they’re part way there, in
Arizona desert country where guns are as available as bottled water. Audra’s
exhausted, so are the children, and Louise, always delicate, has developed a worrying
cough. Nonetheless, Audra presses on, knowing that not far ahead is a small
town where they can rest for the night. But then they are followed by a car
from the local sheriff’s department and Audra’s worries increase. She has a
history of drug abuse and alcohol, encouraged by Patrick who had used her
addiction to subdue and humiliate her, which she had only broken by leaving him
some time before since when she has been completely clean. Patrick, however,
determined on revenge, has taken out a court order that the children should
reside with him. That had been the trigger for Audra’s flight from him and when
she is pulled over by Sheriff Whiteside her terror is at peak level. The
sheriff orders her to get out of the car on the pretext that it is overloaded;
he then goes through not only the car but the boot. And in the boot, he finds a
bag of marijuana leaves. Certainly not Audra’s, someone else must have put it
there. Whiteside arrests and searches Audra, using the search as a pretext for
a quick grope, and calls up his deputy, Deputy Collins. She is instructed by
Whiteside to take away Sean and Louise in Audra’s car while Whiteside takes Audra
to the sheriff’s office and puts her in the cells. By this time, not knowing
what has happened to the children, Audra is distraught, but Whiteside now says.
‘Children? What children? There were no children.’An agent from the Child Abduction Department
of the FBI is called in to assess the case but she is not inclined to believe
Audra. And now there is widespread media coverage all over the U.S. and Audra
is looked on as a possible murderer of her own children. But in California Chinese-American
Danny Lee recognises similarities between this case and the disappearance of
his young daughter five years ago while travelling with his wife. The little
girl had never been found and Danny’s wife commits suicide. Now, seeing the
parallels between Audra’s situation and his own, Danny resolves to travel to
Arizona and contact Audra. Can he help her?
thought this was a first-class story which more than lived up to the
description on the cover: ‘the heart-stopping thriller of 2017.’ I am not
surprised to see that it is to be filmed. Audra’s agony at her children’s
disappearance is totally convincing. Her son Sean is an appealing character,
strong and supportive of his little sister. Even Whiteside and Collins both have
occasional doubts about what they are doing; just enough to establish them as
rounded characters but not enough to win our sympathy. Haylen Beck is in fact
the androgynous pseudonym of Stuart Neville, prize-winning author of the
Belfast-set DCI Serena Flanagan series, and this book demonstrates the author’s
quality as a writer.
Reviewer: Radmila May
Beck is the pen name of internationally
prize-winning crime writer Stuart Neville. Writing under his own name, Stuart
won the LA Times Book Prize for his debut novel and received critical acclaim
for his Belfast-set detective series starring Serena Flanagan. His Haylen Beck
novels are set in the US and are inspired by his love of American crime
born in the U.S. but has lived in the U.K. since she was seven apart from seven
years in The Hague. She read law at university but did not go into practice.
Instead she worked for many years for a firm of law publishers and still does occasional
work for them including taking part in a substantial revision and updating of
her late husband’s legal practitioners’ work on Criminal Evidence published
late 2015. She has also contributed short stories with a distinctly criminal
flavour to two of the Oxford Stories anthologies published by Oxpens Press – a
third story is to be published shortly in another Oxford Stories anthology –
and is now concentrating on her own writing.