Tuesday 16 October 2018

Review: Little Girl Lost by Brian McGilloway

Macmillan, €14.99, paperback

Winter snow and ice has Northern Ireland in its chill grip when, just before dawn, a milkman on his early round glimpses in the blizzard a young girl wearing only a pair of pajamas.

She stares at him wordlessly, before bolting back into the woods she had emerged from.

Both he and the PSNI think the girl is Kate McLaughlin, the kidnapped daughter of a local businessman missing for days, but when Detective Sergeant Lucy Black searches the woods in the darkness, she finds a child huddled against a tree and almost frozen to death.

The little girl, who is covered in blood that is not her own, is certainly not Kate; and, unwilling or unable to speak, it falls on DS Black to try to identify her as she is the only person the child seems to trust, even if she remains mute.

DS Black's attempts to trace the little girl's parents are complicated by her need to care for her increasingly difficult Alzheimer's-stricken father, himself a former RUC officer; and her need to avoid conflict with the exacting and super-critical assistant chief constable of the PSNI -- who happens to be her estranged mother.

But DS Black is ambitious, willing to think outside the box and to use unorthodox methods to achieve success and progress her career.

Her dogged persistence eventually suggests connections between the little girl and missing teenager Kate and she comes to realise that the two cases are also inextricably linked to violent events in Northern Ireland's recent troubled past, events that shaped her own life.

Brian McGilloway is the author of four critically acclaimed Inspector Devlin police procedurals set in his hometown of Derry.

This standalone thriller is cleverly constructed, packed with vibrant and believable characters and admirably free of the cliches of the genre.

It confirms him as one of the most original voices in the notably expanding field of Irish crime fiction and this reviewer, for one, would like to read more of DS Lucy Black.

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