What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn
|What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn|
|Genre: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Superb, direct writing that even a child could understand but with an intricately woven plot makes for a superb read. Highly recommended by The Bookbag.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 204||Date: January 2007|
|Publisher: Tindal Street Press|
Kurt, a security guard at the Green Oaks shopping centre, sees the shadowy figure of a young girl on the CCTV cameras and it puts him in mind of Kate Meaney who disappeared without trace twenty years before. With the help of Lisa, a deputy manager at 'Your Music' he searches the endless service corridors, and fails to find her, but over time a relationship grows between Kurt and Lisa.
That sounds rather dull and commonplace, doesn't it? Well, this book is anything but and I loved it. Kate Meaney is a feisty young girl, who's had a lot to contend with in her life. Orphaned after the sudden death of her father she found herself being cared for by her grandmother. It was a loveless relationship and Kate threw herself into her self-appointed job of junior detective and proprietor of the Falcon Detective Agency. Crime, she felt, was all around her and needed to be stamped out and she would be vigilant.
As the story opens we follow Kate as she pounds her beat. She records her findings in a notebook with that particular brand of knowingness and innocence which makes early adolescence such a fascinating time. Kate's trusted assistant is a stuffed chimp called Mickey and only he knows her fears about a Bank robbery. She has few friends and most of them are adults rather than people of her own age. It's when Kate's grandmother decides that Kate is capable of passing the entrance exam for a scholarship to the local boarding school that Kate disappears.
Catherine O'Flynn captures Kate perfectly and I was completely drawn into the world of the junior detective, so it came as a real shock as the story moved from 1984 to 2004 but once again it's handled with aplomb. Kate has been missing for twenty years but suspicion has fallen on someone close to her and now he too has disappeared. The writing is so direct and well-crafted that it's easy to overlook the fact that a very complex plot is unfolding. I've read many police procedural novels which had simpler plots but all the threads are handled well and the outcome – a neat twist in the tail - didn't feel at all forced. There's sharp observation of society as it is and some very dark humour in places.
My only reservation about the book was the presence of the 'mystery shopper' which felt superfluous on occasions although the part did help to highlight the unhealthy predominance which shopping has in our lives, when people go to a shopping centre for a day out. Catherine O'Flynn's background has been well-mined for this book – she was brought up in a sweet shop, worked as a mystery shopper and in a record shop. I'll be interested to see how she fares with her next novel when she will have to branch out a little.
If you enjoyed this book then you might also enjoy A Small Part of Me by Noelle Harrison.
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