4.5 stars out of 5
If I had to describe this debut thriller in just one word, I'd choose "engrossing." From the beginning, when three young children in a home for orphaned and abandoned children witness acts almost too horrific for them to understand, I thought I might have trouble putting it down. And as the often-gruesome story unfolded, I knew I was right.
This is the first in a series featuring small-town Ireland detective Lottie Parker, who gets the call to investigate when a murdered woman is found in a cathedral. Not long thereafter, another body turns up - this one a man found hanging from a tree outside his home. Identifying the woman presents quite a challenge, but the man is known; and when it turns out that both victims have what appears to be the same tattoo on their legs, it becomes apparent that the two murders somehow are related.
The real-time story takes place from around Christmas 2014 to just after the start of the new year, but readers also get flashbacks to 1971 and some of the scenes witnessed by the children at the home. Lottie and her team, including her partner and occasional sleepover partner Boyd, turn up clues suggesting that the now-abandoned children's home is central to the case. Now, it seems, the property has been sold to a developer who plans to turn it into a multi-million dollar hotel and golf course - plans that seem to have become lost somewhere in the local government bureaucracy.
Just when dwindling leads make solving the two crimes far less than a certainty, yet another body turns up - this time a priest who, Lottie and her cohorts are told, was sent to the local parish "to find himself." This death, though, could be the turning point; surely, three murders in this small community over the space of a few days can't be a coincidence (or, to put it another way, as did one of the characters in Ian Fleming's Goldfinger: "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.") And so it is that Lottie really digs in, going deeper and deeper as the dots from past to present begin to connect.
After reading a ton of books "starring" female detectives, I've concluded that it's a requisite that they be flawed (think, for instance, J.D. Robb's popular Eve Dallas). Lottie is no exception; she lost her beloved husband to cancer and is trying to deal with a demanding career that includes a rather nasty boss (also a requisite, I think), three near-grown children and a mother she loves but from whom she effectively is estranged. What's more, Lottie has a long-ago connection of her own to the abandoned children's home - trauma that's never been resolved and that brings the possibility of harm to her own children as the current case moves to a surprising conclusion (a couple of them, actually - one very believable and the other, at least for me, not so much).
Now I've finished, and I'll say with no reservations whatsoever that I hope this book will mark the successful start of a series - if for no other reason than I want to follow along. Meantime, my thanks to the publisher for allowing me to read it in exchange for an honest review.
The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney (Bookouture, March 2017); 518 pp.