Book Report: MJ Arlidge ‘Who Ain’t Gone’ (Helen Grace 6)
Who Ain’t Gone is the sixth installment of the thriller series with Helen Grace in the lead role of English author MJ Arlidge. In this part, Helen Grace is in prison after her cousin Robert manages to convince everyone that Helen is behind some murders. Now she must try to survive among the women who hate her because she is the reason why they are in prison. But as soon as a murder is committed, she can’t help but do her own investigation, hoping to find the culprit and avoid other victims.
- Main characters
- Symbols and motifs
- Title statement and book cover
- Structure and perspective / way of telling
- Time and place
- Original title: Hide and Seek
- Title: Who is not gone
- Series: Helen Grace (6)
- Author: MJ Arlidge
- First print: 2016
- First edition translated into Dutch: 2017
- Translation: Harmien Robroch
- Number of pages: 396
- ISBN: 978 90 225 8220 6
While awaiting trial, Inspector Helen Grace is in prison among the women she once held herself. She knows she has to watch out as several women want to get even, but she hopes to prove her innocence so she can be released as soon as possible. Although her DNA was found at the crime scenes of several murders, she had no alibi, and she had also lied about her relationship with the victims, she was simply framed. She knows it doesn’t look good, but she can only keep hoping.
Luckily Helen can count on her friend Charlie Brooks, who believes in her innocence. She does her own research to prove Helen’s innocence. She is looking for Robert Stonehill, the real culprit, this against the wishes of Sanderson, Helen’s replacement and thus Charlie’s boss. Helen can also count on a few women in prison, including Jordi, Babs and Noëlle.
The prison is shaken when Helen’s neighbor, Leah, is found dead. The woman was unpopular with her fellow inmates, but Helen does not know enough details about Leah to know exactly why. Leah has been severely mutilated, leaving no doubt about murder.
Helen wants to find out what happened because no one has heard or seen anything and the question is whether Leah will remain the only victim. But soon Annie and Alexis, two untouchable inmates, let Helen know not to engage in an investigation. Not much later, Alexis tackles her roughly to emphasize the message even more. In any case, Alexis wants to get rid of Helen, because she is now trapped because of her. But not only Helen wants to investigate. Benjamin Proud and his team are members of the Custodial Institutions’ investigative team and have arrived at the prison to investigate the matter, sparking resistance from Celia Bassett, the prison director.
Charlie is glad that after weeks of searching, she has a witness who recognizes the man in the photo, Robert Stonehill. He has even more for her, a recording from the store shows Robert looking into the camera. Charlie proposes to reopen the case, but Sanderson doesn’t want to hear about it.
Helen does have a problem, prison is full of potential perpetrators, so where to start? During a conversation with Babs, Helen comes to the conclusion that she should not only watch the prisoners, but also the guards. Proud’s team is also busy questioning the guards. Helen receives a copy of the selection report from one of the guards Sarah Bradshaw. She has made a deal with Sarah, Sarah is allowed to take pictures and share information about Helen to the press in exchange for all the information she can get a hold of about the murder. There is nothing interesting in the section report, but Helen is surprised to read that Leah was pregnant. It could be that this was the reason for the murder. Which causes Helen to focus on the male guards.
Despite the ban, Charlie has continued her investigation and finds out where Robert works. Robert reacts immediately when he sees Charlie and gives her a few punches. Charlie tries to get to him, but Robert manages to steal a car and drive away. When Charlie notifies Sanderson she again demands that the case be reopened. After hearing Charlie’s story, Sanderson is in doubt, but her boss Gardam doesn’t want to hear it. He also makes it clear that Charlie’s career is over. But Sanderson continues to doubt. Do they have enough evidence of Helen’s innocence? And does she want to take the chance to get behind this and endanger her career? Ultimately, she makes the decision to reopen the case and help Charlie.
A little later, a second victim is found, Jordi, Helen’s girlfriend. Now she feels completely stimulated to find the culprit to avenge her friend. But she doesn’t get much time, because she is put in solitary confinement after her drug test is found positive, while she never uses drugs. Helen suspects the sadistic Cameron Campbell of the murders until the kind and gentle Mark Robins is on her own and realizes that he is not at all that nice. He may well be behind the murders. It was Robins who took her for the urine test so he could mess with her test himself. He had helped her when she was injured and offered his help if she needed it, maybe he wanted to seduce her that way. Several women think he is a handsome appearance, although Helen is not really impressed by him. What is the reason for her isolation? Does he want to avoid pursuing her investigation or will she become his next victim?
The moment Robins wants to go outside, he is stopped by Benjamin Proud. He immediately makes it clear that all evidence leads to Robins. But Robins is unimpressed and continues to stare at Proud calmly. The next day Proud wants a statement from Robins, but he now insists that he did not kill the women. He did have a sexual relationship with them and in return he gave them material. But he hadn’t killed them. Not much later, a third victim, Lucy, is found, proving that Robins did not lie because he was trapped.
News of the third death has put the prison in turmoil, and Helen takes advantage of this to visit the pathologist and see the third body. Together they discover the connection between the three women, who had all died of cardiac arrest caused by an injection of pure adrenaline. Knowing this, she moves on to Annie, who can deliver anything to the prison. It gives her the name of the prisoner who ordered adrenaline from her, the woman Helen thought was gentle, affectionate, and everyone’s friend. But now she has to realize that Babs is a cold-blooded murderer.
In Babs’ cell, Helen finds the necessary evidence to inform Proud. But she doesn’t get that chance, because Babs tries to kill her just like the other three women. Helen defends herself and tries to get away from Babs. But she still feels the injection and despite all the efforts to save herself everything turns black.
Charlie is already in her friend’s cellblock at that point because she had heard about the uprising and the murders. She knows Helen won’t rest until the killer is found, so she wants to make sure Helen is okay. Especially now that she has good news for her. She and Sanderson had rounded up Robert and he had confessed to the murders and told enough so that Helen’s innocence could be proven. But when she finds Helen, she has no heartbeat. Fortunately, she is saved through CPR. Not much later she can also leave prison as a free person.
She used to be in charge of the Serious Crimes Team.
She is the only one on Helen’s old team who believes in Helen’s innocence. She is married to Steve and together they have a daughter Jessica.
Jordi is an ex-prostitute who became friends with Helen after helping her with her parole request, which unfortunately has been denied. She has two daughters, Suzanne and Chloe, who have been supervised by youth care services for nearly ten years.
A seventy-year-old who has been sentenced to life. She killed her husband after years of assaulting her and pushing their six-year-old daughter down the stairs. But she’s not an abused wife. That’s the story she told Helen. She is called the angel of death because as a nurse she had murdered several patients and she was probably also behind the deaths of her husband and her parents.
She’s a drug dealer who’s honest with Helen.
The young woman was suspicious, hostile, and violent. She has two sons who live with her mother Cathy.
Helen is his aunt and would have liked to be his guardian angel. But she had killed his mother, who was a serial killer, and now all he wants is revenge for what Helen did.
Symbols and motifs
Leah’s mother Cathy feels guilty for the death of her only daughter. She had not set a good example for her daughter. For example, there had been no father, she had not intervened when Leah left school, and she had not insisted on keeping Leah away from the wrong friends and men.
Alexis is driven by revenge to take out Helen. When she tries this she becomes a victim herself and Helen shows that she is her superior. She is defeated by her nemesis, which can get her into trouble in prison. Now she hates Helen even more.
Jordi had been helping Helen from the first day she was put in prison. She was in a good mood that had helped Helen to work through the days. The idea that Jordi is gone makes Helen feel lonely.
Title statement and book cover
Who is not gone is a reference to what children call. Who is not gone is seen before they go looking for the friends who have hidden sight. It is also a reference to the perpetrator who manages to hide in prison, where the freedom of movement is limited anyway. The book cover only shows the author’s name and title, which is typical of this series.
Structure and perspective / way of telling
The book consists of 396 pages, which are divided into 142 chapters. The story takes the point of view of Leah, Helen Grace, Inspector Sanderson, Sarah Bradshaw (the security guard who finds Leah dead in her cell), Cathy Smith (Leah’s mother), Celia Bassett (Holloway’s principal), Andrew Holmes ( the spiritual caretaker in Holloway), Jordi, Emilia Garanita (the reporter who is always behind Helen), Benjamin Proud, Alexis, Mark Robbins, Cameron Campbell, Robert Stonehill, Suzanne (Jordi’s oldest daughter) and Jonathan Gardam, who third person.
Sometimes you are betrayed by the people you trust most.
Time and place
The story is set in the present day is Hampshire and Holloway prison.
The book Who Isn’t Gone is the sequel to To bed, to bed, so it is more interesting to read part five of this series first. But you can read it as a separate part anyway, you will not understand all the nuances of the story, but you can certainly follow it. MJ Arlidge manages to write a real thriller from start to finish. The chapters are short and sweet and are told from different points of view. The atmosphere is so well created and through the harsh environment we get to know Helen Grace in a different way. Again, you get sympathy for some characters and forget the location and the reason why they are in prison. This series is accessible to a very wide audience. So if you don’t know Helen Grace yet, you should definitely give her a chance.