“Gone Without A Trace” by Mary Torjussen is a compelling mystery and psychological thriller involving relationships. The themes of loss, secrets and betrayal are powerfully explored. Obsession, losing one’s self worth, and wondering what happened in a partner’s disappearance makes the story very suspenseful.
An online forum where people discuss their problems influenced the author.
“I read of one woman’s post where she came home from work and saw her boyfriend had left, taking almost everything with him,” Torjussen said. “I wanted to write about these cowardly partners who end a relationship without any explanation, not even a note or text. Then I thought how technology aids by allowing someone to block and delete the other person. How cruel and horrible to just cut it off. How many of us would be like Hannah, unable to rest until we know what happened?”
The main character, Hannah, returns from a daylong conference only to find her boyfriend, Matt, has disappeared without a trace. Worse yet, all his possessions were also gone as if he never existed in the first place. Erased are all of his email conversations and text messages with Hannah, and he does not seem to have any presence on the Internet.
She devotes her life to finding him or at least what happened with the help of her supposed best friend Katie and her former boyfriend James. Being preoccupied with this task affects her work and attitude. She is missing deadlines, looking haggard, and becoming short-tempered. What became a certainty is that someone appeared to be watching her every move, making strange phone calls and text messages. As she becomes a shell of herself readers want to shake her and have her take Katie’s advice to just move on.
With these new social norms “Dear John” letters of the past seem like a kind way of ending a relationship. Although the story was written only from the perspective of Hannah, an unreliable narrator, it almost had to be scripted that way because of all the plot twists. The second half of the book was definitely jaw dropping and readers’ emotions would range from sympathy to hate as the plot progresses.
The author noted, “How well do we really know someone. If they did something spiteful or malicious would they reveal it to their intimate partner? Hannah kept the secret of her abusive father. There is this saying, ‘Street Angel, House Devil.’ On the outside he was charming, successful, and handsome. Yet, at home things were completely different where he became evil.”
Torjussen will continue with her ability to write realistic relationships in her next novel. The plot has an eighteen-year-old girl accusing a peer of rape. She eventually withdraws the claim, but the boy and his mother commit suicide because of the shame. The sister is the only one left and she seeks revenge for what happened to her family.
Both the current and future books have a plot that deals with the characters’ obsession, jealousy, hatred, and secret betrayals. Anyone who enjoys reading about believable relationships will relish this plotline, including the dark conclusion of “Gone Without A Trace.”