LITTLE GIRL LOST by Brian McGilloway

As I’m sure I’m about to learn with my month of reading Scandinavian crime, there is something dreadfully yet delightfully chilling about a winter crime. It’s below freezing outside, there are tracks in the snow… it’s eerie and sets the perfect tone for a thrilling story. Little Girl Lost is set in an Irish winter and manages to blend perfectly into the wild mix of chilly thrillers abundant in the marketplace. I’ve never read a McGilloway before, but I enjoyed this one so much I had best add some more to my ever-increasing list of books to read.

The jacket of my copy calls it a stand-alone, but I would love to see more of Detective Sergeant Lucy Black. Lucy hasn’t had the easiest life; her mother, the Assistant Chief Constable, was more married to her job than her family, and her father is fighting a losing battle with Alzheimer’s. Lucy has struggled to make a name for herself without living in her mother’s shadow, and her personal life has suffered as a result. Her life changes unexpectedly when a young girl is found wandering through the woods in the middle of a snowy, cold night. The authorities have reason to think it may be missing girl Kate McLaughlin, but upon finding the child they soon realise the girl is too young to be Kate. Upsetting as this may be, what disturbs Lucy more is that no one claims little “Alice”, and the girl is too traumatised by her ordeal to speak.

As the investigation progresses, it becomes apparent that the missing girl cases are linked: Alice has been in contact with Kate, and was found with blood on her that was not her own. When someone recognises Alice, Lucy is able to start piecing the case together. But when her personal connections start to appear in the history surrounding the McLaughlin family, Lucy is forced to question everything she thought she knew about her family. In what truly is a race against time to save Kate, Lucy and her family have to look back over their past one more painful time to get to the bottom of a decades-old mystery that threatens to tear everything apart.

As adults, we sometimes learn things about our parents that we wish we didn’t know. As Lucy comes to terms with bits of her father’s past, she is also exposed first-hand to how children in abusive and neglectful families are raised. McGilloway’s treatment of fragile family bonds is outstanding – there are so many emotions running throughout the novel, and they are masterfully woven together to create a powerful and poignant novel about how our past defines are future, and the lengths some people will go to to ensure the past stays buried. Overall, a complex thriller that keeps you guessing right to the last page… and a perfect prelude to my upcoming Scandinavian month!

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