And Then She Was Gone

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A fretful mother needs Clarke Lantham's help, but finding her missing daughter might just send reality into a drunken tailspin.
From the posh shadow of Mount Diablo to the kink clubs of San Francisco, a lone detective chases down pieces of the weirdest puzzle he's ever seen, all for the sake of a 19-year-old girl whose face he can't stop seeing every time he closes his eyes. More

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About J. Daniel Sawyer

J. Daniel Sawyer is a hat-wearing, obsessive-compulsive autodidact attempting to write his way out of the loony bin.
A self-aggrandizing science fiction and fantasy author who publishes lurid stories and, worse, the occasional popular philosophy article, he is also a very minor authority on Open Source media production (a topic on which he is, unfortunately, published regularly in LinuxJournal).
In addition to his wanton abuse of the printed word, he unscrupulously uses his decade-long experience as an audio and video producer with his painfully florid and gritty writing style to create deeply immersive audio universes. This habit, which he indulges in public, has garnered him seven Parsec nominations and helped him make his first professional fiction and philosophy sales (a trend which, for the good of the world at large, we can only hope abates soon). Meanwhile, his growing, rabid fan-base is currently plotting to imprison him and force him to produce endless new literary abominations for their amusement. We can only hope they succeed.
Should you be so inclined, you can communicate with this shady character, as well as find podcasts, articles, and other literary abominations at http://www.jdsawyer.net

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Reviews

Review by: Lucie Le Blanc on Jan. 03, 2012 : star star star star star
A thrill ride ! Once I began reading, there was nothing to stop me until the end. The rythm of the story kept me on the edge of my seat all the time. Well done !
(reviewed within a week of purchase)

Review by: Dan Shaurette on May 28, 2011 : star star star star star
I won't rehash everyone else's sentiments or synopses. I will simply say that once again Dan Sawyer has crafted an entertaining tale that twisted along and took me for a great ride.

I'd like to point out that this is the first of Dan's works that I did NOT listen to and have been forced to *gasp* actually read! (I'm an audiobibliophile due to lack of time to commit to the usual cracking open of a book.) It says a lot that I actually made time to read it and kept coming back to read more and more of this eBook. I'm eagerly looking forward to more Lantham mysteries.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: GraceKrispy on Dec. 30, 2010 : star star star star
Clarke Latham is a cynical PI who's been around the block a few times. With his background on the police force and his jaded life experiences, not much surprises him anymore. When he accepts a job tracking down a wayward adult daughter, he finds himself entrenched in a mystery that extends far beyond this young woman and her proclivity for risk-taking and sexual promiscuity. Something's not quite right about this case- or this girl- and Clarke is going to get to the bottom of this mystery... or die trying.
Taking us on a whirlwind tour in short order, J. Daniel Sawyer has pulled out all the stops. The moment I read the first page, it brought to mind the classic noir image of a darkened PI office, a busty blond walking in, and the hard-talking, innocently cynical banter between them. Hard boiled detective novels are not at typical genre for me. That being said, I wonder why I haven't read more; I was hooked from the beginning. There were very few slow spots, but I must admit to being confused by some of the action scenes. In keeping with the pithy and witty writing style so suited to this genre, those scenes lacked a depth that would have allowed me to follow along a little better. No wasted words in this novel, with the exception of the kind of over-description that recalls the banter between Maddie and David in the TV series "Moonlighting." Clarke mostly seemed to banter with himself (or, essentially, the reader), and some of the more succinct paragraphs were sometimes grating when they came one after another. I noticed this more towards the latter half of the novel. It worked for me in most of the book, but left me a little cold in some of the intense action, where I struggled to keep up with too few words to guide me.

The storyline adds a modern twist to this genre, and it's pretty compelling to try to follow the tantalizing little clues to determine who did what and, most importantly, why. Quite a bit of the storyline (and what Clarke thinks about it) is shared via Clarke's ruminations on his progress, which was great for me in the beginning, but it started to wear a bit towards the second half of the book. I wanted this lone star to have a foil with whom to interact. Rachael, his intern who is much more present in the end of the story and only pops up briefly here and there before that, would have been perfect as that foil. With a little more "screen time" for Rachael, Clarke would have had a Maddie for his David, and that would have had the added advantage of letting us get to know him through another lens. Clarke had an interesting head full of thoughts, but I didn't want to spend quite so much time just in his head.

Stylistically, this book fits its genre rather well. Clarke's and Nya's characters were as developed as they should be for this type of book, with the other characters a little less so. It was pretty well-edited, with only a few minor errors here and there. Like any good serialized novel, the ending leaves you with the hint of a possible adversary, as yet a mystery, who may rear her head again in future stories. Fortunately, fans of the book won't have to wait long for the next book- it's already out.Overall, a nicely written, modernized hard boiled detective story. Witty and pithy, with a storyline that keeps you engaged, this is a recommended read.

@ MotherLode blog
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Nathan on Nov. 20, 2010 : star star star star star
This is a great story that wraps you up in mystery, but isn't set in the normal age. The action is awesome, and the story doesn't let go till it's done with you. An amazing read, especially for the price. Grab it today and just try to fall asleep reading it, it won't let you!
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Adam McCullough on Oct. 21, 2010 : star star star star star
The first time I read "And Then She Was Gone," I had no clue what to expect. A friend of mine was kind enough to loan me a copy for me to try (using 'loaned' loosely in the age of digital copy-paste), and off I was. I've long held a soft spot for detective noir, both the traditional fare made famous by Humphry and Bacall and the pastishe re-invention that Blade Runner made famous.

So when I discovered that Clark Lantham was very much in the same vein, I settled in for a very familiar guilty pleasure -- jaded ex-cop, too good at his job, too dedicated to the case, and far too experienced to allow himself the luxury of taking things at face value.

However, that isn't where the story ended. As other reviers have said, Clark Lantham brings his own collection of tricks, tools, insights, and hang-ups to the mix. He definitely borrows from the spirit of the old gumshoes of old, but the arsenel he brings to bear is something out of a mash-up of Q from James Bond and MacGuyver. Cell Phones that double as GPS units, scripts that exploit security holes in facebook, and a catelogue of favors owed to him from specialists and experts make him prepared to handle almost anything thrown at him.

This isn't a book stuck on its own technology fetish, however. Like other Dan Sawyer novels, it's a character driven story. The tools and implements facilitate those characters, and each one bears Clarke's signature. In addition to that, Clark is a chance for Dan's keen insight into human behavior to shine in full sardonic glory. Nothing is sacred, nothing is pure, and everyone has a knife with your name on it.

But this too-jaded attitude does not stop Clark from becoming overly involved in the latest case he's handed. Nor does it stop him from pursuing the case, long after his better judgement has given up telling him to stop.

I was very pleased with the novel, the story it told, and the characters it portrayed. My only complaints are two-fold:

One, it went by very quickly. No, scratch that. It FLEW by. It's very fast-paced, and doesn't let up for an instant. Especially for as cerebral, reflective, and analytical as Dan Sawyer's novels get, this one does not let up. It grabs you by the naughty bits and does not let go until the last page. If you're looking for a book to nurse and savor a few pages at a time before bed, this book will make that a difficult endeavor. Expect to be up until 3 or 4 AM until you finish the novel. :)

Two, because my loaner-friend didn't let me in on much before reading it, I walked in assuming this was a completely self-contained one-off novel. It's not -- Dan Sawyer has many more Clarke Lantham stories planned, which is not what the break-neck pacing of the book lead me to believe. The story is very much self-contained and satisfying, but it's act one of a larger narrative.

The good news behind this, of course... is that the best is yet to come. :)
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: R. Taylor on Oct. 12, 2010 : star star star star
AND THEN IT GOT BETTER

This book did not grab me from the very first page. The voice of the narrator grated on me at the beginning, the noirisms coming a bit too fast and thick for my taste. I was ready to declare it Not For Me if my brows had to rise any higher. Thankfully, the tone settles down and the action picks up towards the second and third chapters, and I didn't have much problem with it the rest of the book. My brain skipped over most of the San Francisco geography because I'm not familiar with the area, but it did lend just enough local color without going overboard.

It was a fast read for me, only a few hours. As I hit the halfway point and all the threads started drawing together, I couldn't put it down--since it's an e-book, that means I barely checked Twitter and saved all incoming links to read later, a thing that is rare for my Internet attention span. The pacing of the book was pitch-perfect; Sawyer really shows his talent for the landslide finish. Since I'm better acquainted with the hydra-headed third-person-limited POV of his other book PREDESTINATION AND OTHER GAMES OF CHANCE, it was interesting to experience the tight first-person POV of AND THEN SHE WAS GONE. In some ways this choice of POV is limiting, as only the protagonist is given much chance to exposit and the antagonist/s's motivations and the effects of their actions on secondary characters are mostly unclear or thinly explored: but unreliable narrator's privilege may be a function of the genre.

I wasn't left guessing 'til the end, but that was okay. I figured out one key plot point 30 pages before the protagonist, and another about 10 pages early. Probably because the groundwork reminded me of two other stories, which I can't actually mention here to avoid spoilers. Other twists were definitely a surprise. Despite the tense and sometimes gruesome plot, I actually laughed out loud at several points, and there are a few subtle easter eggs for podcasting and science fiction fans.

All in all, it was a very entertaining read, and I recommend it to fans of mysteries and thrillers. I imagine it would come especially in handy on trains, airplanes, road trips where someone else is driving, or appointments you are stuck waiting for--I certainly forgot my surroundings while reading it.
(reviewed the day of purchase)

Review by: Chris Lester on Oct. 11, 2010 : star star star star star
A PULP HERO FOR THE INTERNET ERA

Detective stories have gone hand-in-hand with cheap, ephemeral entertainment since Arthur Conan Doyle published the first adventure of Sherlock Holmes in the November 1887 issue of a paperback magazine. The "pulp" adventures of the Twenties and Thirties got their name from the inexpensive paper on which they were printed; it was in these flimsy dime-store magazines that the American noir detective was born, and people bought them by the millions. In the 1950s, when the mass-market paperback became the new standard for bargain reading material, mystery readers snapped them up faster than the M&Ms in a bowl of trail mix. And now, as the e-book market finally becomes a serious player in publishing, who's leading the way in sales? You guessed it: mystery writers.

It isn't hard to see why. A good detective mystery doesn't lend itself to slow, leisurely reading and re-reading. It grabs you by the throat from the first page, keeps you on the edge of your seat as the story unfolds, and carries you along to a surprising, satisfying conclusion. A second reading will never reproduce that sense of confusion, suspense, and foreboding that keeps you turning the pages; you already know the end of the story. Mystery lovers go through a LOT of books, and they go through them fast. With a literary appetite like that, you're not going to be buying hardcovers. Even if the expense weren't an issue, the weight and bulk would be a major drag when you're wandering around the house with your book in one hand and the vacuum cleaner in the other.

AND THEN SHE WAS GONE is a book tailor-made for the modern mystery reader. First off, there's the amazing price -- half the cost of a mass market paperback, and less than a lot of people pay for their morning lattes. Even if you're not familiar with J. Daniel Sawyer's ground-breaking work in the realm of podcast fiction, including the country house mystery DOWN FROM TEN and the science fiction noir thriller PREDESTINATION, the price point is low enough that anybody looking for a good story should be willing to give it a try.

Second, there's the pacing. This is a taut, gripping mystery with prose so tight you could bounce a quarter off it. The plot twists and turns through the glitz and the gutters of the San Francisco Bay Area: from the suburban drug trade of the Oakland Hills, through a bioethics symposium at Stanford, to the kink/bondage scene of the City itself. Detective Clarke Lantham narrates the action in a tight, spare and sardonic voice that captures the spirit of the noir detective genre without falling prey to its verbal excesses.

That bring me to the third selling point: this is very much a *modern* pulp mystery. On the one hand, Lantham is a classic noir detective in many ways: a disgraced and jaded ex-cop, haunted by his demons, hungering for some kind of personal redemption, woefully single, struggling to keep his financial head above water, living by his own code of ethics. On the other hand, Lantham is a twenty-first century man through and through, with the detective tools to match. It's hard to envision Sam Spade tracking a suspect with the GPS locator on a disposable cell phone, using a script hack on a Facebook account to find a missing person, or cruising around an upper-middle class neighborhood with an open laptop in search of a Wi-Fi connection. The themes of the plot are modern, too, with a mystery that tackles tough topics like bioethics, neo-primitivism and man's responsibilities to the rest of the biosphere -- as well as more down-to-earth fare, like the complex social networks of modern American teenagers. It is this fresh, modern spin on the classic detective tropes that makes the book so distinctive and compelling.

AND THEN SHE WAS GONE is not a perfect book. The plot takes some liberties with science that strain the limits of the plausible. For the average reader this might not be a big deal; after all, best-selling authors have asked us for similarly-improbable leaps of faith in the past, and no one seems to have complained too much. For me, having been trained as a scientist, it was a bit harder to swallow.

What the average mystery reader might find more troublesome, however, is that Lantham doesn't even uncover some of his most important clues on his own. In a move that might be a little *too* 21st Century, Lantham hires a subcontractor to handle the heavy-duty techno-sleuthing for him. Our hero gets several crucial pieces of the puzzle, not through his own cleverness or resourcefulness or courage, but because he "knows a guy". It feels a bit like using "Phone A Friend" on the last question of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire": effective, sure, but a little anticlimactic.

Still, it's important to take the book for what it is. Pulp adventures are not about die-hard realism, or even about the detective proving himself to be smarter than his adversaries. No, what matters for the pulp detective is how he uses the information he finds, and whether he can get himself and his charges out of danger in one piece. In this, AND THEN SHE WAS GONE delivers beautifully, with a white-knuckled climax full of all the bullets, blood and pulse-pounding excitement you could ask for.

The book is subtitled "A Clarke Lantham Mystery", hinting that Sawyer has more mysteries in the works for his beleaguered detective. AND THEN SHE WAS GONE certainly drops some tantalizing hints for the future: Lantham makes some enemies in this book, and from the look of it they are *not* the sort of people you want to piss off. If the last ten pages don't leave you clamoring for the next book in the series, I don't know what's wrong with you. Hollywood wishes it could write sequel-bait this good.

The Verdict: With an engaging and fully modern shamus, a fast-paced narrative style and a mystery that probes the bleeding edges of science and culture, AND THEN SHE WAS GONE sets the standard for a new age of pulp-noir adventure.
(reviewed the day of purchase)

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