Star rating – 8/10
If you are one of the legions of crime fans suffering from post Danish TV hit series ‘The Killing’ blues – then Brain McGilloway has created another female detective to almost rival Sarah Lund in his new book ‘Little Girl Lost’. McGilloway writes crime fiction set in his native Northern Ireland, and has completed four books about Inspector Devlin, before breaking away to give us a new novel about DS Lucy Black. What I like about his books is that he fuses place and plot in a fast paced and fascinating way, so that his stories are rooted in the historical and political context of Northern Ireland and its Troubles, whilst also being damn fine crime thrillers to boot. And he does not disappoint this time.
‘Little Girl Lost’ fuses several different plot lines cleverly into one, and explores the background of his tough young detective, who wants to stand or fall on her own merits without reference to her successful mother Assistant Chief Constable. This independent streak has developed partially as a result of her mother’s cold attitude to her in her childhood, and the fact that her father brought her up following her parents’ split years before. But there is more to this tale than meets the eye. And as Lucy struggles to care for her father through his worsening dementia, very interesting character traits are revealed. Lucy has a soft side, which is put to the test when she find the young child of the title wandering in freezing woods with blood on her pyjamas that is obviously not her own. A teenage girl has also gone missing, and it is not long before Lucy finds vital clues to link the two cases.
But interwoven with the crimes, and Lucy’s personal narrative is the backdrop of Derry, McGilloway’s home city. He cleverly weaves in the complex politics of Northern Ireland’s troubled past, including bombings, tarring of suspected police informers, and a corrupt police force besides. But he does it in a way that is not forced or preaching, just very compelling. But above all his books are fine crime novels, written in a way that keeps you engaged for just one more chapter, and then just one more, as all the best crime writers do. Check him out before everyone else discovers him.