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Monday, January 29, 2018

Debut Thriller With Familiar Plot Not As Good As It Could Have Been

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Eight years ago, a parent's worst nightmare came true for Anna Davalos and Tom Whitaker.  Their 13-year-old daughter, Julie, was taken from her bedroom at knife point.  While Anna and Tom slept, blissfully unaware of what was happening upstairs, 10-year-old Jane watched her sister's abduction in horrified silence.  No one has seen Julie since.  With no clues to indicate the fate of the missing girl, the Whitakers have reluctantly accepted the fact that their daughter is most likely dead.  

Then, one day, out of the blue, a woman arrives on the Whitakers' doorstep claiming to be Julie.  The family is overjoyed, but also confused.  Although this stranger looks like their long-lost loved one, she doesn't always act like her.  Can Julie really have changed so much in eight years?  What happened while she was away?  Why won't "Julie" tell anyone who took her and how she finally escaped?  As much as the Whitakers want to believe this woman is their daughter, they're simply not sure.  But, if she isn't Julie, then who is she?  And what does she want from the Whitakers?

I've read a few books with the same premise as the one around which Good As Gone—a debut novel by Amy Gentry—revolves.  It's an intriguing idea for sure.  Considering the strange true case of Nicholas Barclay/Frédéric Bourdin, these types of stories aren't even that far-fetched (at least not in the pre-DNA testing era).  The question is, does the execution of the novel live up to its fascinating premise?  Sorta.  Good As Gone definitely tells a compelling and twisty story.  The ending surprised me.  Plot-wise, the tale feels a little disjointed.  Julie's chapters, in particular, get confusing.  It doesn't help that the characters are not overly warm or sympathetic—I didn't feel super connected to any of them.  On the whole, the book's depressing, but engrossing.  Although Good As Gone has been compared to blockbusters like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, it's not that skillfully written.  Gentry has potential for sure, but this one feels like a debut novel.  It's not bad; it just could have been lots better.  


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, blood/gore, sexual content, disturbing subject matter, and depictions of illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find


  1. Oi! The synopsis of this one sounds a bit like the beginnings of the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping. And the fact that it says it’s “A Novel of Suspense” right on the cover bothers me. It does sound like the author has potential and will no doubt get better with each new book...hopefully.

  2. Sorry you didn't like this one more. I liked the way Gentry chose to write this book, and how she kept me guessing about Julie's real identity all the way to the end.

  3. Anything compared to The Girl on the Train is a turn off to me. I hated that book.

  4. I read this one last year and think my reaction was much the same as yours. I listened to it on audio and found it a bit hard to keep up with who and what and that's not usually the case for me. Amy Gentry is an Austin area author and I wanted to see her at a local library last year, but wasn't able to go. I'll be watching for what she writes next as I think she has definite potential.

  5. A missing child showing up is such a great premise, too bad this one didn't live up to its potential


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