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Sunday 24 November 2019

‘Gone in the Night’ by Mary-Jane Riley

Published by Killer Reads,
11 July 2019.
ISBN: 978-0-00-834026-1 (PB)

The central mystery in Gone in the Night is why anyone who didn’t absolutely have to would deliberately go out of their way to become a homeless person living on the streets.  For this is just what Rick Winterton has chosen to do.  The most straightforward of Rick’s reasons for taking such a desperate path is that as an ex soldier suffering from PTSD he feels guilty about what he has done and for all the dreadful scenes he has witnessed.  The other reasons he has adopted this unusual lifestyle are more complicated.  One is revenge for something that happened to his sister years ago, whilst another is to discover what is happening to homeless people in Norwich: several have disappeared or have supposedly committed suicide.  Rick believes these deaths and disappearances are linked to devious shenanigans taking place on a mysterious island located just off Woodbridge in Suffolk.

Journalist Alex Devlin comes across the injured Rick after he crashes a stolen vehicle on a quiet back road near Woodbridge.  She is walking home from a party given by the affluent and charitable Rider family - father, mother and three brothers who own the island Rick is interested in. One of the brothers, Jamie has taken a liking to Alex.  She likes him but isn’t sure if she can trust him.  Rick just has time to give Alex a piece of paper with his sister’s name and phone number on it before he is whisked off in a white van by two men who insist they will take him to hospital.  Alex is worried about the men’s motives. Subsequent checking reveals that Rick has not been treated at any of the local hospitals.  He, too, is now missing.

Alex contacts Rick’s sister Cora.  She isn’t very forthcoming about her brother and what he is involved in and Alex thinks Cora knows more than she is letting on.  Slowly, as more homeless people die, it becomes clear that there is a considerable backlog of animosity between the Rickman and the Rider Families. Alex calls in favours from DI Sam Slater, who tries, unsuccessfully, to divert her attention away from both Rick and Cora Winterton and The Rider family.

Eventually Alex and Cora agree to combine their resources. They make a clandestine trip to the forbidden and fortified island where, in a literally explosive episode, Alex uncovers what has been happening on the island.

In Gone in the Night Mary-Jane Riley has given us a brilliant insight into the lives and fates of homeless people who choose to live on the streets in Norwich - sadly there are a goodly number of such in habitants.  The action moves between Norfolk and Suffolk and provides a well-established sense of place.  Some locations are named whilst others, like the island, are borrowed and adapted to suit the story.  For animal lovers- and you would need to be one in this instance- there is a characterful hound called Ethel who does her best to flavour the tale.  All in all, despite the harrowing nature of its subject, I found Gone in the Night an intriguing and enjoyable read.
Reviewer Angela Crowther

Mary-Jane Riley wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter, when she was eight. When she grew up, she had to earn a living and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades. Then, in true journalistic style, she decided not to let the facts get in the way of a good story and got creative. She wrote for women's magazines and small presses. She formed WriteOutLoud with two writer friends to help charities get their message across using their life stories. Now she is writing crime thrillers drawing on her experiences in journalism. Her fourth book set in East Anglia and featuring investigative journalist Alex Devlin, Gone in the Night, was published by Harper Collins/Killer Reads in July 2019.

Angela Crowther is a retired scientist.  She has published many scientific papers but, as yet, no crime fiction.  In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group, goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi and Wagner.

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