‘A stressed, middle-aged man picks up a teenage escort and commits an unspeakable crime, unaware that a homeless man – her only real friend – will do anything to find her.‘
[ About the Book ]
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…
[ My Review ]
Faceless by Vanda Symon was published March 17th with Orenda Books. Described as ‘hard-hitting, fast-paced and immensely thought-provoking‘, Faceless is the new standalone thriller from New Zealand’s ‘Queen of Crime’. Vanda Symon is the creator of The Sam Shephard crime fiction/police procedural series but Faceless is a novel that stands on its own two feet with its own cast of characters and a very affecting storyline.
Highlighting the plight of the homeless, Vanda Symon takes the reader down into a murky place, where hunger and a constant underlying fear are the common denominators among all who live in the shadows. It is among these shadows that Max lives. His previous life blocked out, Max skulks in doorways, scavenges through rubbish skips and sleeps under cardboard boxes. He is unkempt, with dirty hair, dirty nails, dirty teeth and there is a stench constantly emanating from him, but Max is beyond caring. He is one of the many walking dead who have lost their way in life, for whatever reason, now ignored, threatened and bullied by others in society who look down on these insidious creatures of the streets. When a young girl, Billy, arrives into Max’s patch, there is something about her that reawakens long-lost feelings in Max and he has the overriding sense of needing to protect her, to look out for her. They form an unlikely friendship, both promising each other to be there if and when needed.
One day Max wakes up in his cardboard shelter to discover that Billy hasn’t returned from the previous night. Initially he is hopeful that she is with other people from the streets that she knows but, after searching where he can, he knows that something bad has happened. He made her a promise, he told her he would have her back but now Max knows that in order to help look for her, he is going to have step out of the shadows and face a reality that he has long since hidden away.
Bradley is a man on the verge of cracking. With redundancies at work, he is under pressure to do more to cover for the lack of employees. He is working crazy hours with a bully for a boss and a nagging wife who has no understandings of the workload he is collapsing under. He lives in an exclusive and affluent neighbourhood with two beautiful daughter and a mortgage that he is struggling with. He has made bad investment choices and has a property portfolio that has failed to perform. Stuck in a rut, Bradley feels the need to do something radical, something so out of character, just to release some steam, so he makes a decision. He drives to an area of the city known for prostitution and he picks up a young girl. But Bradley makes a very bad judgement call and, very quickly, things spiral completely out of his control.
Max, Billy and Bradley are three very different individuals, all lost in different ways and all choosing very different paths. On paper it would seem that Bradley has it all, the well-paid job, the big house, the gorgeous wife and two beautiful daughters but, in reality, Bradley is struggling and his coping mechanism is slipping away. Max is a fascinating character, whose background is slowly revealed. There was a trigger in Max’s life that catapulted him down into this nether world of homelessness and it is truly heart-breaking to read his story and how life can spin so quickly out of control. Billy found herself on the streets as a result of a life-changing event but Billy was young enough to see a way out of the mess. She has a dream and is willing to take some risks in order to achieve that dream. Tough and hardened by life, Billy will have to dig deep and find strength wherever she can to keep her spirit alive, to keep her head above water.
Faceless is a very tense and intense reading experience with some very harrowing scenes. Vanda Symon takes her readers into a very dark place, yet, to counter-balance this darkness there is hope as Max steps out from the shadows and takes those first steps challenging his inner demons and facing some home truths. We are all too familiar with folk sleeping in doorways in all kinds of weather. We are all guilty of walking by and choosing not to acknowledge their presence. We don’t see these faceless people, these people whose lives have been destroyed for whatever reason. Vanda Symon tackles this by giving names and backstories to Billy and to Max, bringing their homelessness into the spotlight and their reasons for being there into our minds.
Faceless is an emotional read, one that will anger, sadden, disgust and shock in equal measure but also one that emanates hope, love and courage. Hard-hitting and disturbing, Faceless is a very salient and relevant tale, a very compelling and insightful read.
[ Bio ]
Vanda Symon is a crime writer, health researcher 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.
Twitter ~ @vandasymon