Book review: No Trace by Barry Maitland



No Trace by Barry Maitland is a just a cut above in the crime fiction genre. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s English. Maybe it’s the fact there are so many substandard, poorly written, just-out-to-snare-a-movie-script competitors to compare him to. Maybe it’s the feeling that you are reading something almost literary. Maybe it’s the smart-looking, glossy cover. Whatever it is, No Trace was a relief to read.

The story

Two little girls are missing. And then another, much younger girl, Tracey, disappears. Certainly, the cases have similarities. However, there are some vital differences between the first two and Tracey, one of which is Tracey’s father, an eccentric and unfortunate artist, who lost his wife to suicide five years before and won a major art prize for his tragically inspired work immediately afterwards. Now, Tracy’s father is devastated again... so much so that he decides a new artwork inspired by his missing child is now in order. The cops on the case are kept on their toes, and there is the added pressure of a cantankerous judge and a Scotland Yard review panel advising that heads should roll...

The style

As I mentioned above, No Trace was pretty decent as far as the crime fiction genre goes. It didn’t have the passion or darkness of James Ellroy, but it did maintain a sense of reality and captured my interest for the entire duration of the book. As I mentioned above, there are LOTS of substandard crime writers and even worse than substandard crime writers (hello, later works of James Patterson...). Barry Maitland is not in any way substandard and has obviously matched an above average amount of skill with a quantity of research and come up with a reasonably original and well written piece of work that is certainly one of the better stories in this genre (a genre which is rapidly becoming obese). Barry Maitland’s claim to originality in this novel is his working of art into the story, and he does it extremely well. He obviously didn’t just cobble it together in forty eight hours, but knew his stuff, and it all sounded convincing and fairly natural. He knew his artists, his pieces, and his referencing—and he knew popular opinions and styles. My only complaint is that I felt some of the main characters weren’t sufficiently developed. However, this being my first Barry Maitland I may find that character development occurred earlier in this series of books. On the whole, No Trace kept me intrigued till the conclusion and then chucked a twist in that improved it even more.

Who is this book for?

If you are into crime novels, this one is definitely for you. Even if you are discerning about the crime novels you read, this one is on the way to literary in a way that most others, even the well-known ones like Val McDermid’s and Ian Rankin’s, just aren’t. So, if you are into the genre, this is a good, faith-restoring story.

If you like this book, you would also like...

There are other Maitland stories with the same characters, so you might want to have a look at those. Also, if you’re into a well written story but don’t need so much of the literary, try Val McDermid and Ian Rankin. Obviously, the running thread between all these authors is the fact that they are from the UK as opposed to the USA—and that seems to make a BIG difference in quality. (There are a few exceptions, obviously). For an awesome American author of crime, with a dark side, try James Ellroy.



In short

Title: No Trace
Author: Barry Maitland
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 978174114
Year copyright: 2004
Pages: 378
Score out of ten: 7