Tuesday 22 May 2018

Mystified by a missing child

Crime: Where I Lost Her, T. Greenwood, Corvus €11.20

Where I Lost Her by T. Greenwood
Where I Lost Her by T. Greenwood

Margaret Carragher

The cover art of this excellent thriller fairly captures its essence. Against a backdrop of dense woodland there stands a little girl clad only in a scrappy pink tutu and red wellies.

"No sightings. No witnesses. No reports..." goes the strapline; one is instantly enthralled. Set mostly in America circa 2015 with occasional flashbacks to Guatemala circa 2007, the book opens with its two main protagonists Tess and Jake driving from Brooklyn to spend a weekend with friends in rural Vermont.

When the wine runs out Tess drives to the nearest store for more; and on her way back she comes across a child, half-naked, standing in the middle of the isolated dirt road. Tess has time only to register that the little girl is bleeding and obviously frightened before the child bolts into the surrounding woodland, leaving Tess to raise the alarm.

A search team is mobilised to no avail; it's as if the little girl has vanished into thin air. And then the questions begin: what was Tess doing out so late? Had she been drinking beforehand? If she really did see the little girl why has no one reported a child missing?

The locals, initially eager to help gradually lose interest; and as the investigation is scaled back, the police officer in charge, convinced that Tess has fabricated the whole thing, threatens to press charges against her for wasting police time.

But even when confronted with evidence that her imagination has played tricks in the past, Tess sticks to her story and continues to search for the little girl.

Then, as the narrative moves to Guatemala one can see why Tess might be so obsessed by this mystery child. Because eight years earlier, unable to have children she and her husband decided to adopt a little girl from Guatemala.

In the run-up to the adoption, Tess could think of little else, even moving to Guatemala to bond with the child. But then things went horribly wrong...

Eloquent, pacy and compelling, this is a book to be devoured whole - I couldn't put it down.

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