Last week I attended a blogger conference where two of the participants told us about how they’d been taken in by an online “friend” who turned out not to have existed at all. Or, at least, the online identity of this person didn’t. The bloggers were perplexed: how could someone they’d chatted with on Twitter, friended on Facebook, and had even arranged to meet several times in person (none of which, as it turned out, eventuated), be someone else entirely? And why would someone go to such lengths to construct a new identity?
Andrea Kane’s The Line Between Here and Gone, the second in her Forensic Instincts series, is all about identity and how it can be created, recreated, and hidden–and the reasons why people might do such a thing.
Amanda Gleason is a new mother who has resigned herself to bringing up her son alone after her partner’s suspicious disappearance some months ago. But though raising a newborn alone is no easy task, Amanda’s case is even more challenging: her son, it turns out, has an autoimmune condition that means that he lacks an immune system. Without a donor, his chances of survival beyond the next month or two are close to nil. Amanda herself is ineligible, having contracted Hepatitis C earlier in her life, and her only living relative is her wealthy uncle. Needless to say, Amanda is becoming more and more desperate as time marches on and her son becomes increasingly ill. So when Amanda suddenly receives news that her partner may well be alive, she hires the Forensic Investigators team to track him down.
But people rarely disappear without good reason, as Amanda and the FI team are soon to find out. What begins as a routine missing person search quickly becomes something a good deal more involved as the team learns that the circumstances behind Amanda’s partner’s disappearance are more than suspicious. But not only that, but he may well have been linked to an organised crime syndicate which in turn may be linked to a prominent local politician and, worse, Amanda’s uncle. And in their race against the clock, the FI team are about to find out that these dodgy dealings may go all the way to the top of the country’s protective services.
If there’s something that invariably captures the sympathy of the reader, it’s an infant in danger, and our sympathetic sensibilities are grabbed at from the first moments of this book. The infant’s health a brazen plot device to raise the stakes and amp up the drama of the book, and is put to the test with each passing chapter in a sort of biological count-down. And to be honest, it’s needed, as despite the on-going investigation and the various discoveries involving all manner of corrupt individuals, there’s a surprising lack of tension throughout the middle part of the novel. Perhaps it’s because the criminal element involved is largely white-collar in nature, so although there’s Bad Stuff going on, it never really seems that any of the characters are in danger. Other than Amanda’s son’s health, there’s not really any impetus to solve the crime as quickly as possible.
The lack of tension may also be due to the wealth of point of view characters we come across. The FI team comprises five operatives as well as a trusty sniffer dog, and the narrative regularly switches between their different points of view. Unfortunately, these characters are all fairly similar in nature, in particular the stoic Marc Deveraux, the equally stoic Patrick Lynch, and the also stoic Hutch–there’s just a certain stoicism about those FBI/Navy Seal guys, apparently. (Ryan McKay, nerdy tech genius, breaks the mould a little with his snarky arrogance, although perhaps I found him memorable because I imagined him not only as looking like Robert Downey Jr, but also suspected that he had an Iron Man suit sitting in his closet…)
Where the book becomes interesting is the a tug of war between Amanda’s desperation to save her child no matter the fallout, and Forensic Instincts’ struggle to solve the task they’ve been assigned whilst also unravelling the many layers of deception and exploitation they’re quickly learning about. Amanda has no qualms about undermining the approach of the FI team if it means that she can save her son, and it’s interesting to watch how she and the team take such vastly different tacks when it comes to achieving what should be the same outcome.
Thematically, the most obvious of the recurring motifs is that of the value of a human life: there are several occasions where someone is forced to debate whether the life of a single child is worth more than certain Internal Affairs secrets or the success of certain key ongoing investigations. And through these we learn exactly why the FI team has no qualms about bending the law or engaging in legally shady practices.
In addition, the idea of identity and how it can be rebuilt or set aside is central to the book. As I alluded to in my introduction, there’s the constant question of how well we can truly know those around us, not to mention the question of the disconnection between private and public lives. After all, what we see of someone can be entirely different from who they really are, and Kane examines all of her characters through this questioning lens, supplying not only the what and the how, but the why. Her characters, of course, are retired FBI agents, ex Navy seals, and people who have assumed new identities to escape their pasts, so it’s no surprise that identity looms large.
The Line Between Here and Gone offers a slightly different take on the typical high-stakes thriller, and the twist towards the end is quite clever. However, the stilted writing and expositional dialogue did affect my appreciation of it, as did the slow middle and the reliance on the ill infant as a way of otherwise upping the tension. Still, readers who like the thrillers more about suspense and less about violence should enjoy this one.
With thanks to Meryl L Moss Media Relations for the review copy
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Other books by Andrea Kane:
An interview with Andrea Kane about The Girl Who Disappeared Twice, the first in the Forensic Instincts series: