McGilloway, Brian – ‘Little Girl Lost’
Trade Paperback: 304 pages (May 2011) Publisher: Macmillan ISBN: 0230753365
Brian McGilloway, author of BORDERLANDS and three subsequent excellent crime novels about Inspector Ben Devlin, here changes tack to write a readable book about a set of new Ireland-based characters. The main protagonist is DS Lucy Black, recently returned to Derry where she grew up but who left as a teenager under dangerous circumstances. As LITTLE GIRL LOST opens, Lucy discovers a young girl wandering in the snowy woods in her pyjamas. After some initial excitement from her colleagues, who mistakenly think the girl may be the recently missing teenager Kate McLaughlin, Lucy is assigned to search for the girl’s identity and family.
Lucy is a very dedicated officer, spending most nights during the novel’s timespan in the hospital, either with the traumatised lost girl or with her own father, who is suffering the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and having various accidents. During daytimes, Lucy tenaciously follows up lines of evidence to try to find the girl’s identity, which brings her to the house of another young girl whose circumstances will later prove (somewhat coincidentally) to be connected to other police investigations. Although she often acts out of kindness, Lucy’s actions not only help to sort out her own case, but have strong impacts on the Kate McLaughlin mystery (not least because of one of the nurses whom Lucy befriends) and, indeed, on her own and her parents’ troubled past.
LITTLE GIRL LOST is a solid police procedural, depending for its impact on traditional detective work rather than on technology (for example, the police when pursuing a fleeing suspect do not even seem to have walkie-talkies to communicate). There is also a tense atmosphere of sexism, office politics, social unrest and the pressures caused by the Irish financial crisis, an atmosphere which this author conveys very well. Overall, LITTLE GIRL LOST, despite the number of coincidences and interconnections which means that almost every character in the book is relevant to the plot(s) in some way or other, is an enjoyable read with an attractive main character – brave, independent and ambitious – yet who makes some mistakes and has plenty yet to learn. One of the many interesting aspects of the book is the relationship of Lucy with both of her parents, which along with her desire to progress in the CID will, I hope, provide plenty of material for future novels.