Tuesday Thrillers – Gone Before by Sam Hepburn

My Tuesday Thriller this week is the captivating Gone Before by Sam Hepburn. Let’s find out a bit more about it.


The disappearance of five-year-old Maya Duncan remains one of the most famous missing person cases in British history. She vanished without a trace. Until now…

Fifteen years after the abduction, Phoebe knocks on Kay Duncan’s door, clutching a yellow rainhat with Maya’s name stitched into the back. Phoebe is convinced that she is Maya Duncan, and that the woman behind the door is her real mother.

When Phoebe sees Kay, the memories come flooding back, and it seems that mother and daughter are to be reunited at last. But when a shocking discovery shatters the fragile relationship they have begun to build, Kay commits suicide, leaving Phoebe riddled with guilt.

Alone and unanchored, Phoebe travels to London to dig into Kay’s life, hoping to uncover the truth behind her own identity. But as she pieces together Kay’s past, Phoebe discovers a disturbing link to the woman who raised her, and a terrible secret that even now could put her life in danger.

Read an extract

A grey, startled bird takes off as I come around the ridge and ahead of me, just a few yards away, sits the Villa Rosa. I take in the open shutters, the red espadrilles kicked off on the step and the basket of courgettes – their buttery, star-shaped flowers still attached – and my legs give way, as if I’m going to hit the ground. Somehow I stay upright and keep walking, each step a little slower than the last until I reach the sun-bleached blue of the door. All I have to do is lift my fist and knock. I don’t. I strain to make out the song pulsing faintly from an upstairs window, glance back at the spit of white rock thrusting into the electric glitter of the Mediterranean a few hundred feet below, and try to remember how to breathe.

Roz’s voice snaps in my ear, sharp as the twigs underfoot. Go on, kiddo. Don’t bottle out now. I curl my fingers, reach for the words I’ve been mouthing on the plane from London, the bus from Marseille and all the way up the zigzag road from Cassis, and rap out a sharp double knock that jolts the lazy hush of the hillside. The music stops. A long, hot silence. Then movement. The tentative scuff of footsteps. A darkening of the pinprick of light behind the spyhole. A bolt slides back. A latch lifts. The door opens a few inches, disturbing the air just enough to send a quiver through the overhanging tendrils of vine.

It’s her. I feel it like an electric shock that leaves me seared and limp. She’s older. Of course she is – nearly thirty-six by now, the spiky wild-child glamour of those early photos long gone. But who is it that her tired eyes are seeing as they stare out at me through that tumble of dark hair? A sweaty, suntanned stranger in cut-off shorts? Or the embodiment of fifteen years of guilt and hope, and fear and dreams?

‘Yes?’ The voice is wary.

‘Kay Duncan?’

A twitch around the eyelids. ‘Who are you?’

‘My name is Phoebe Locklear.’ I lick the salt from my lip. ‘But I think I’m your daughter.’

An angry hiss shoots from her mouth. ‘What are you after? Money? Publicity? A sick thrill?’ She glances over my shoulder, as if she’s expecting an accomplice to spring from the bushes. Her eyes jerk back to me. ‘Leave. Right now. Or I’ll call the police.’

‘Please!’ I slam my shoulder against the closing door and thrust my hands through the gap. The pressure eases when she sees what I’m holding: a child’s yellow sou’wester, the chinstrap a grubby spiral of withered elastic. Slowly I turn back the brim and show her the name inked along the inside of the crown. Maya Jane Duncan.

‘I was in Botswana.’ The word seems unreal, out of place. ‘On a nature reserve. That’s why the police never found me.’

Her jaw moves. I shove the hat towards her. She takes it slowly, her eyes stuck fast to the smudge of lettering, her thumb pushing at the bumpy stitching along the seam.

‘Where did you get this?’ She’s wagging the sou’wester in my face, eyes screwed up with what could be fury but feels more like fear.

What do I say? There’s too much to tell. Two thirds of my life to unravel and explain. ‘Roz… the woman who took me. She died. Cancer. Seven weeks ago. It was in a box of stuff she left me. And there was a letter.’ I rummage in my duffel bag and push the folded sheet into her hand. ‘Don’t be upset by what she says… I don’t blame you… not for any of it.’ I’ve rehearsed that line so many times I almost believe it’s true. I don’t blame you, Kay. Not for any of it.

It sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? Amazon reviews describe the story as ‘twisty’, ‘gripping’, ‘compelling’, ‘mysterious and addictive’. You can grab yourself a copy here:

Buy links

Amazon: https://geni.us/B08CW5398ZSocial  

Apple: http://ow.ly/vZFe50AxCta 

Kobo: http://ow.ly/HCyG50AxCru 

Google: http://ow.ly/qFIi50AxCv4

Meet Sam

Sam Hepburn read modern languages at Cambridge University and, after a brief spell in advertising, joined the BBC as a General Trainee. She worked as a documentary maker for twenty years and was one of the commissioners for the launch of BBC Four. Since then, she has written several books, including psychological thrillers Gone Before and Her Perfect Life, and novels for young adults and children. She won the 2017 CWA Margery Allingham Short Story award and has been nominated for several other prestigious prizes, including the CILIP Carnegie Medal for her YA thrillers.

Sam has worked and travelled widely in Africa and the Middle East, and is a trustee of the Kenyan’s children’s charity, I Afrika. She now lives in London with her husband and children.

Contact links

Twitter: @Sam_Osman_Books
Faebook: Sam Hepburn – author

Thanks so much for dropping by to tell us about your book,Sam. Wishing you many sales!

Published by Bookouture on 23rd November. Now on preorder: Amazon: https://geni.us/B08GKRRPWHCover

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