Good as Gone by Douglas Corleone is the story of a reluctant child re-acquirer named Simon Fisk. Simon rescues children who have been abducted by a parent. But in this case, he is manipulated by the French police into locating an American girl named Lindsay Sorkin. He follows her trail all over Europe, Germany, Poland, several former Soviet republics, and Belgium. Simon, of course, has a history. His own daughter was kidnapped and never found. His wife, who blamed him for being out of the country at the time of the abduction, killed herself. Simon hasn’t spoken to his own mother or sister since he was a small child.
Firstly, this is an excellent beach read, intelligently written with an interesting eye for details of visiting foreign countries. I was genuinely amused by Polish national’s Ana’s pride in her nation’s perogies. There’s a lot of fun wish fulfillment. This book seems to be a cousin of Taken, the movie, and the Jack Reacher novels. It’s a thriller! It’s fun! Simon Fisk can take an unholy amount of punishment. But it is light, light reading. Don’t come to Good as Gone for the theme.
The beginning of the book is very well written because the moments are fully conceived, action is happening and we are seeing its effect on Simon’s state of being. As the book goes on, the chapters get shorter and shorter as the action takes over. I wish that we could have expanded on some of the violence and gone deeper inside Simon’s head before and after, instead of the abrupt transitions. But what do you want? Good as Gone is trying to be fun and entertaining. I suspect that this will be a series and by about four books in, we’ll know all we need to know about Simon Fisk.
But in the way of action movies, after establishing character, we barrel forward into action to the detriment of the book. The closer to the end you get, the less detail we are given about, well, anything. The moments become unrealized, what do the new characters look like?, how do they feel?, and how many times can you get stabbed before you have to go to the hospital? Also, as the story goes on, we start to get information that feels like it’s been quickly cribbed from Wikipedia, lots of statistics about Chernobyl or the child abduction percentages of Belarus. And worse, those moments often contradict the action. The character will make a small social flub– trying to shake a Russian’s hand over the threshold– and then will remember that he once read an article on Russian social norms and began to quote them to us chapter and verse, even though he is the guy who just made the mistake. It’s a clunky convention, trying to get all your research on the page (I’m looking at you, Dan Brown!). It’s like author Douglas Corleone had a deadline and the closer he got to the end of the book, the more he rushed and just put down facts he knew. Hell, I still sort of liked the book. I bet if you read it all in one sitting, it would be okay.
But books, even thrillers, have a responsibility to have more depth than a Stephen Segal movie. Okay, maybe Good as Gone has more depth than that, but not a whole hell of a lot.
Oh my God, did the end of this book bother me. I won’t reveal specifics. Remember in Seven how you have all these moments with Morgan Freeman studying forgotten lore in the dark library, trying to fathom the logic of the perfect killer. And then the killer just turns himself in to the police? And all the moments of investigation meant absolutely nothing. This is even worse than that. Essentially, Simon flat-out runs into one of the killer’s buddies on a side-trip, puts two and two together, and goes to get the guy. Two pages later, we’re done. Sure, the investigation got him to the right town, but it’s a big town.
Good as Gone is okay, a nice quick read, but mediocre. And worse, it could have been great if the writing just remained consistent.