Worn down by a job he hates, and a stressful family life, middle-aged, middle-class Bradley picks up a teenage escort and commits an unspeakable crime. Now she’s tied up in his warehouse, and he doesn’t know what to do.
Max is homeless, eating from rubbish bins, sleeping rough and barely existing – known for cadging a cigarette from anyone passing, and occasionally even the footpath. Nobody really sees Max, but he has one friend, and she’s gone missing.
In order to find her, Max is going to have to call on some people from his past, and reopen wounds that have remained unhealed for a very long time
and the clock is ticking…
Vanda Symon has become one of my favourite authors over the last few years so I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for her new release, Faceless. My thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
Wah, where is Sam? That was my first thought when I heard that Vanda Symon’s latest novel didn’t feature the detective in whom I have become so invested. Was I going to enjoy one of Vanda’s book as much without Sam? No, Julie, I chided myself, keep an open mind and don’t go into the book loaded down with prejudices. I’m really glad I did because, despite the Sam-shaped hole, this is an excellent book.
Told in the voices of the four main protagonists, we get the story from every angle. An ordinary family man picks up a teenage prostitute on the streets of Auckland, an action completely out of character. What happens next takes this man further and further away from where he started. Unluckily for him, the girl is not the friendless, lost soul he assumes. She has someone looking out for her, and he has friends, and so a chain of events is set in motion that quickly spiral out of control.
Vanda has created a quartet of fascinating characters here to carry this story, every one of them complex, rich and believable. Billy, the girl, has a tragic story that gradually unfolds across the pages until we fully understand why she has ended up where she is. She is a victim, but refuses to surrender herself to that identity and the reader’s heart goes out to her from the beginning. It is only too easy to imagine any young girl finding herself similarly exposed by only a tiny slip of circumstance and, as a mother of girls, it is troubling and heartbreaking. Max is similarly sympathetic, once we understand what has lead him to the streets. The book is a thoughtful exploration of how one mistake, one bad decision, one untreated mental health catastrophe can quickly lead to the disintegration of someone’s life and them falling through the cracks.
Bradley is an entirely different proposition, He embodies the darkness that can lurk behind a benign facade. How a seemingly mild-mannered personality can hide suppressed proclivities that, once unleashed, cannot easily be put back in their box. The fact that he is so believable as a character makes for uncomfortable reading for women; it reminds us that it is all too easy to fall foul of a person who hides their demons behind a bland face, that we can never really know what lurks beneath the surface of a person.
This book is a hard tale to read, because it shines a light on a subset of society that it is too easy for the rest of us to forget. The souls who have dropped off the grid of normality that the rest of us inhabit and eke out an existence in the shadows that puts them at great risk. It is shameful that, in modern, wealthy nations, so many people are homeless and lost and prey to people who wish to exploit them. I admire Vanda for taking on this topic and dealing with it so tenderly and with great understanding. This is not a book I am comfortable saying that I enjoyed, but I was certainly gripped by it and left with the uneasy feeling that I am sure the author fully intended.
Faceless is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.
Please do visit some of my fellow bloggers to find out their views on the book:
About the Author
Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shephard series, which includes Overkill, The Ringmaster, Containment and Bound, hit number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and has also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award. Overkill was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger.
Connect with Vanda:
Facebook: Vanda Simon