A good race with a poor finish. That’s my reaction to Paul Pilkington’s Long Gone, the first in a series of mysteries about Chief Inspector Paul Cullen of the London Transport Police. (People tend not to take the Transport Police seriously, which is a running theme in the book. But lots of serious crime goes on on the buses and in the Underground.)
Inspector Cullen is riding the Underground on his way to work when he notices a young man apparently assaulting a young woman. He follows (pausing on the way to get the girl’s assurance that there was an assault), and chases the young man through the streets – until the fugitive comes to a sudden, ugly end.
Paul is placed on administrative leave, as is standard procedure when an officer is involved in a death. He’s heading home when he gets diverted by a call from his daughter Amy. Amy is his only family since the recent death of his wife, and she suffers from anxiety attacks, so he’s protective of her. She tells him she’s worried about her friend Natalie. Natalie had been selected for a major job opportunity – a reality show-style competition between six candidates for a job with a high profile new company. But she sent Amy a disturbing text message on her way home from the event, and then vanished completely.
Paul isn’t supposed to be doing any investigation while he’s on leave, but he’s willing to bend the rules for Amy. As we follow his inquiries, we also follow in flashbacks Natalie’s course through a very bizarre experience in corporate culture, one where she soon realizes that something is very wrong.
Long Gone engaged me and kept my interest all the way through. I was interested in the characters and curious what would happen to them. Unfortunately the plot lost all credibility at the climax. The final action was highly contrived and extremely implausible.
The theme of the book was “Me Too,” which might have put me off a little. However, the main offender was a hypocritical male feminist, so I didn’t mind. But that final “showdown” lost me completely.