Imagine the pain of knowing that your child has been abducted. Knowing that she and her best friend are alone, scared and in grave danger whcih you can do nothing about. Now imagine being locked in a bidding war with your own best friends in order to secure your child’s safe release. Would you be willing to pay any price to get your daughter back, even if that meant that the other child may never come home?
This is the dilemma facing the Timmins and Hanson families in Lost Girls, the third instalment of the Kim Stone series. Although outside of her area of expertise, Kim is specifically requested as Officer in Charge by one of the parents, and although not everyone agrees with this decision, she demands to take on the case, bringing to it her usual dogged desire for justice. Her passion is heightened by the fact that the case involves children, an emotional trigger for her which is not helped by the appearance of a face from her past. Aided by her trusted team, and a few new characters, Kim sets about investigating the disappearance of the girls, including looking back over a similar case from the previous year, one which did not have a favourable outcome. She is determined that she will not fail and will bring both girls back alive. Is there anyone brave or foolish enough to try and prove her wrong?
Lost Girls is an emotional rollercoaster of a book. Taking us swiftly between the POV of the investigating team, the perpetrators of the kidnapping, including a very violent man with no discernible conscience, and the two scared young girls, Marsons creates a fast paced story, neither too gratuitous or too simplified in terms of violence, and yet maintaining the tension and keeping the reader guessing as to just who the mysterious third suspect may be. The creation of tension between the parents, who start the story united in their despair, only to be torn apart by the unsub’s cruel games, as well as the limited tolerance of Kim for the behaviour analyst and negotiator that she feels are foisted upon her, ring true to both the characters and the story. Bryant remains on hand to challenge Kim when the tension gets so high that she looks set to unravel, and this shows another aspect of their friendship, extremely well observed in terms of him being the only person who Kim would likely listen to and get her back on track (with a little help from her new furry best friend).
The descriptions of the area and the depiction of gang life inside the dodgy housing estates of the black country, provide a side story which allows Dawson his moment in the spotlight, and the overall story gives you a little more insight into Kim’s past, one which we already knew was painful and traumatic. I really like Marsons writing, partly because I know the areas she describes so well (I will admit having a little smile to myself as I drove past the Pure Gym by the Merry Hill) but also because the story flows well, taking the reader along for a fast paced and yet bumpy ride. And I like the characters that she has created, the attention to detail in describing their own peculiarities. I do admit, that while some may find the titluar character a little prickly and hard to bond with, I kind of identify with the character of Kim Stone, although I hope I do manage a more occasional display of good humour with my own team. That said, owever Marmite she may be, I firmly believe that after three books, this is a character that you have to respect. What I really like though is that there is no sense of Kim Stone being a person who has to be the ‘tough woman in a man’s world’ which can be all too prevalent and easy to slip into when trying to write a strong female character. It is purely that this is how she is, no apologies, just a character who is unable or willing to change and doesn’t give a damn who knows it. Sometimes that is enough, that there is no other motivation to be the best other than it is what she wants to be, and for these books at least, it most certainly is just that.
5 Bostin’ Stars