Gone Astray – Michelle Davies (Guest Post and Review)

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Published by Pan McMillan

Ebook and Hardback 24 March 2016 | Paperback 20 October 2016

 

 

When a Lesley Kinnock buys a lottery ticket on a whim, it changes her life more than she could have imagined . . .

Lesley and her husband Mack are the sudden winners of a £15 million EuroMillions jackpot. They move with their 15-year-old daughter Rosie to an exclusive gated estate in Buckinghamshire, leaving behind their ordinary lives – and friends – as they are catapulted into wealth beyond their wildest dreams.

But it soon turns into their darkest nightmare when, one beautiful spring afternoon, Lesley returns to their house to find it empty: their daughter Rosie is gone.

DC Maggie Neville is assigned to be Family Liaison Officer to Lesley and Mack, supporting them while quietly trying to investigate the family. And she has a crisis threatening her own life – a secret from the past that could shatter everything she’s worked so hard to build.

As Lesley and Maggie desperately try to find Rosie, their fates hurtle together on a collision course that threatens to end in tragedy . . .

Money can’t buy you happiness.
The truth could hurt more than a lie.
One moment really can change your life forever.

 

The real-life case at the heart of my novel

by Michelle Davies

 

When it was suggested I write about the real-life case that prompted me to write Gone Astray, I thought long and hard about whether I should. That’s because the case in question is that of missing toddler Ben Needham and as I type these words his family are coming to terms with the discovery that he died in a tragic accident on the same day he disappeared on the Greek island of Kos 25 years ago. It’s a heartbreaking outcome for his mum Kerry, who never gave up hope that she would one day find him alive.

It is not my wish to add to her grief, but I came to the conclusion that she would appreciate the sentiment behind why I’m writing this, because it was her wish to keep his name at the forefront of people’s minds that introduced us in the first place.

My day job is writing features for women’s magazines and in 2010 Kerry graciously agreed to talk to me to coincide with the fifth anniversary of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance about what life is like when your missing child never returns. Kerry was frustrated that Ben’s case had been virtually forgotten by the media and public and hoped our interview would remind everyone he still hadn’t been found.

During our chat Kerry mentioned she had been assigned a Family Liaison Officer (FLO) by South Yorkshire police. This support officer, a woman called Jane Morley, was her go-between, someone she could call upon when she had a query about the case and could vent her frustrations at. It was clear that Kerry viewed Jane as one of the most important people in her life at that time.

For me it was a ‘light bulb moment’ – I knew instantly that a FLO would be a brilliant central police character for the crime novel I was planning to write. I went away to research the role in depth and came across so many relatives who credited their FLO with saving them from a complete breakdown: one woman, whose sons had been murdered by her ex-husband, even had her FLO give her away when she remarried.

The last time I spoke to Kerry, about six months ago, she told me her new FLO (Jane has since left the force) had been out to Kos with her. I knew this was a big deal for her because for many years the Needham family had searched for Ben in Greece alone, sleeping on beaches to save money on hotels.

‘That was the first time we’d actually had British police officers stand by our side talking with Greek police officers,’ she told me. ‘It was brilliant. We no longer felt alone.’

Kerry is being supported by her FLO right now as she deals with the news of her little boy’s death. I know she’s in the very best hands.

Thank you for hosting me on my first ever blog tour and for supporting Gone Astray.

 

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My Review:

I bought a copy of Gone Astray when it was first published but, as ever, it has been languishing on my shelf unread. When Francesca invited me to take part in the blog tour for the paperback publication, it seemed a perfect opportunity/excuse (not that I ever need an excuse to read a book!) to actually read it and find out what I was missing – and I’m very glad that I did.

I don’t know about you, but when I read about some lucky person winning millions on the lottery, I do, for just a moment, think “how lucky are they and what I would do with that amount of money”. My other fleeting thought is how dangerous it could be having that much wealth, particularly if your win is made public.

This thought is picked up in Gone Astray. When Lesley Kinnock impulsively buys a lottery ticket and ends up winning a huge amount of money, she is not to know that she has unknowingly placed her family in danger.

There is a saying  – “money can’t buy you happiness” – I’m sure that Lesley would agree with that. Despite winning £15 million, she is at odds with her husband Mack; she feels uncomfortable flaunting their new found wealth and doesn’t feel at home in their expensive new house however her husband likes nothing more than flashing the cash and feeling important.

When the unthinkable happens and their teenage daughter Rosie disappears, they are both beside themselves. Unbeknown to them somebody resents their win and is determined to get a share for themselves.

Gone Astray grabbed me from the first few pages and was a truly addictive read. At first it was unclear whether Rosie had gone off somewhere of her own volition but as time passes and she hasn’t returned, concern turns to panic.

All the way through this story, I was convinced that not everyone was telling the truth. Lesley seemed to be holding back information and I couldn’t help thinking that if you were so worried for your daughter’s safety wouldn’t you tell the police everything you knew that could possibly help them find her. Her husband Mack also has secrets of his own and Rosie’s friends seem to know more than they are telling.

Told in the third person, the chapters feature the viewpoints of Lesley, together with the FLO and there is also an anonymous, rather sinister voice. As the story continues, we find out how this person connects.

Gone Astray is a very intriguing crime thriller featuring as the main police character, a Family Liaison Officer, DC Maggie Neville, who along with a colleague, is one of two Family Liaison Officers assigned to the family. Maggie has her own backstory – she has a complicated family life (which includes a seemingly very ungrateful sister); it is made clear from the outset that something has gone badly wrong with one of her previous cases and she is keen to redeem herself here with her superiors, particularly DCI Umpire (whom I suspect will feature a little more in Maggie’s life!).   I believe that this is the first in a series featuring this FLO – and I’m looking forward to getting to know her better. Whilst she comes across as being diligent and sympathetic, she also has the potential to be a bit of a loose cannon and instead of always following orders goes with her gut. Her job is not just tea and sympathy though, as well as supporting the family, she is also expected to find out what she can and report back anything of interest and assistance to the investigating team.

With realistic characterisations and a fast paced and interesting plot, there was an awful lot to like about this book. The author’s journalistic experience is put to good use with the story narrative and all the various strands come together very well to form a dramatic and nail-biting conclusion.

 

Source: My own purchased copy

 

About the author:

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Michelle Davies was born in Middlesex in 1972, raised in Buckinghamshire and now lives in north London.

Her debut crime novel, Gone Astray, was published in Hardback in March 2016 and features Family Liaison Officer DC Maggie Neville as its central police character. The paperback version is due for publication on 20th October 2016. Gone Astray was part of a two-book deal with Pan Macmillan and the follow-up, Wrong Place, also featuring DC Neville, is due for release on 27th February 2017.

When she’s not turning her hand to crime, Michelle writes as a freelance journalist for women’s magazines including Marie Claire, Essentials, YOU and Stylist. Her last staff job before going freelance was as Editor-at-Large at Grazia and she was previously Features Editor at heat. She began her career straight from school at 18, working as a trainee reporter on her home-town newspaper, the Bucks Free Press.

 

Author Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon UK | Goodreads

 

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2 Comments

  1. 30th October 2016 / 8:18 am

    Wow what a way to present a thriller I can see the high of winning a vast sum of money and then the desperate low! Lovely that it was written to help keep Ben Needham’s case in the forefront of everyone’s mind – great post and review Karen!

    • Karen
      30th October 2016 / 11:00 am

      Thanks Cleo, it was really good read, one for your TBR? I remember when Ben Needham first went missing all those years ago – such a heartbreaking conclusion for the family.

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