Good as Gone. Mystery fans: grab the debut novel from Austin writer Amy Gentry asap because everyone will be talking about this one.
The title invites comparison with that best selling phenomenon, Gone Girl, and sure enough, the mystery opens with the horrifying premise that a stranger has abducted the victim, this time a thirteen-year-old girl, from her home.
The only witness is unreliable, a younger sister who doesn’t raise an outcry. What did she really see? When a young woman shows up on the family doorstep eight years later, claiming to be the victim, it’s a testament to the author’s writing skill that the reader is eager to go along on this jaunt through somewhat familiar territory.
The plot unfolds with alternating chapters told from the perspectives of Anna, the mother, and Julie, the woman on the doorstep. Privy to Julie’s chapters, the reader stays one step ahead of the shell-shocked mother, understanding early on that Julie is a liar. Our hearts dread the moment when this suffering family is doomed to be shattered once again by tragedy.
Gentry keeps us turning the pages but one could quibble with some of the devices she uses to reach the climactic revelation. For example, the failed detective who never could give up the quest to find the little girl appears a bit too conveniently. But, really, why complain about a mystery that so engrosses us? And best of all —
Best of all, it’s the kind of story that lingers, leaving one thinking days later. Troubling thoughts about hubris. Nagging questions about how one might fail in the essential role of motherhood. On one level, it’s a story about a woman who didn’t know her children as well as she thought and didn’t see herself as others saw her.
Well done, Amy Gentry. I’ll be waiting for the next book.