Faceless by Vanda Symon #bookreview #Faceless

Worn down by a job he hates, and a stressful family life, middle-aged, middle-class Bradley picks up a teenage escort and commits an unspeakable crime. Now she’s tied up in his warehouse, and he doesn’t know what to do.
Max is homeless, eating from rubbish bins, sleeping rough and barely existing – known for cadging a cigarette from anyone passing, and occasionally even the footpath. Nobody really sees Max, but he has one friend, and she’s gone missing.
In order to find her, Max is going to have to call on some people from his past, and reopen wounds that have remained unhealed for a very long time, and the clock is ticking…
Hard-hitting, fast-paced and immensely thought-provoking, Faceless – the startling new standalone thriller from New Zealand’s ‘Queen of Crime’ – will leave you breathless.


Hi and welcome to my review of Faceless!

I love Vanda Symon’s Sam Shephard series so I was very excited to read her first standalone thriller with Orenda Books and let me start by saying that it’s a doozy!

The title aptly chosen, Faceless centres around the faceless people in society. The ones we pass in the street without ever really seeing them. The ones we might toss a few coins to, or might even avoid altogether.

Faceless tells the story of Billy, who has been living rough for the past year, she’s passionate about her street art and she turns tricks for money to buy food and spray paint and other bare necessities. Billy has one friend and ally in this new life of hers: Max, who had something positively horrible happen to him and who has been out on the streets ever since. When Billy disappears without a trace, Max knows something’s off and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to find her, even if it kills him, be it figuratively or literally.

Bradley picks up Billy after a terrible day, week, month in the office, in search of some release. One thing leads to another and before he knows it, he’s holding Billy captive in his warehouse, unsure what to do with her, well at first at least. I won’t go into details, those are for you to find out if and when you read Faceless, which I really hope you’ll do, so let’s just say I didn’t know whether to cry or murder someone. (I ended up doing a bit of the former and none of the latter, in case you were wondering.) 

I know Vanda Symon isn’t afraid of the dark, I can name a few scenes from the Sam Shephard series that prove that, but man, Faceless is something else. This is so dark, so gritty, so raw, I honestly had to take breaks from reading cos I started feeling rather raw myself. Faceless is Vanda Symon at her darkest, but in my humble opinion also at her best.

I read The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean mid-December shortly before reading Faceless and I was absolutely sure I wouldn’t be reading any other book in 2021 that got my hackles up that way, that shook me that way, that left me feeling raw that way, and I guess I was kinda right, cos Faceless was about ten times worse.

Part police procedural, part crime thriller, part searing drama, Faceless… devastated me. I know I sound like the world’s biggest drama queen right now, but you guys, I mean it. It is not for the faint of heart, like AT ALL, but it’s worth it. There are no cheap thrills, it all feels escalated but way too plausible and I lost count of the number of times this book broke my heart. But again: totally worth it.

I read those last couple of chapters with bated breath, heart in my throat, eyes brimming. I was completely and utterly invested in the story, in its people. I don’t know what else to tell you but highly, highly recommended.

Faceless is out in digital formats today – happy e-publication day to Vanda Symon! – with the paperback to follow in March. (Pre)order it directly from Orenda Books here.

Huge thanks to Orenda Books for the eARC! All opinions are still my own.

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