Source: Review copy
Publication: 7 March 2019 from Headline
Waking up beside the dead girl, she couldn’t remember anything.
Who she was. Who had taken her. How to escape.
Detective Abigail Boone has been missing for four days when she is finally found, confused and broken. Suffering retrograde amnesia, she is a stranger to her despairing husband and bewildered son.
Hopelessly lost in her own life, with no leads on her abduction, Boone’s only instinct is to revisit the case she was investigating when she vanished: the baffling disappearance of a young woman, Sarah Still.
Defying her family and the police, Boone obsessively follows a deadly trail to the darkest edges of human cruelty. But even if she finds Sarah, will Boone ever be the same again?
In Past Life, Dominic Nolan has created an intense, character driven novel that asks some probing questions about the nature of identity.
Abigail Boone was a Detective with Kent Police, investigating the disappearance of a young local woman when she was found badly beaten and with no memory at all. She has literally no recollection of any of her past life. There are some things she instinctively remembers, like how to drive, but the fact that she has a loving husband and a teenage son, there is ….zilch.
She simply does not know who she is and nothing that her family do is making any difference. They try hard, playing her music she has loved, she tries reading novels in her house that she must have enjoyed at some point, but nothing makes a dent in her psyche. She is a stranger to her family and worse, a stranger to herself.
Invalided out of the police with what she regards as undue haste, and isolated inside herself, her only instinct is to go back and look at the case she was investigating when she was abducted. Going now simply by Boone, she begins, with the help of an old colleague, Barb, to go back over the case files that she was investigating.
Devoid of connections, she is a rogue operator. She takes lessons in Krav Magna to help her feel more secure, but apart from that, she investigates this case with all the finesse of a bull in a china shop, not caring who she upsets or what unwanted attention she attracts.
Where she does make genuine, human connections, though is with women who are living on the edge. There are some remarkable characterisations here and friendships are forged which feel true and important, much more so than any connection she fails to make at home.
Dominic Nolan has written a gripping, pacy novel about the very real and horrible subject of people trafficking and it is dark and violent and at moments, almost unbearable to the characters you have come to care about.
There is no glibness here; no easy answers. Life is hard and those who survive have to be harder still. It is searing, intense and some of its characters are strangely endearing, so that you end up caring about a woman who seems to have no care for herself.
Well written, with darkly funny and believable dialogue, it is the depth of the characters that resonates and the sense of melancholy that prevails.
For a debut novel, it is fantastically accomplished.
Dominic Nolan was born and raised in north London. PAST LIFE is his first novel.