Happy publication day to Patricia Gibney whose book The Missing Ones, the first in the Detective Lottie Parker series, is released today by publishers Bookouture. I have my review to share with you but first, here’s what the book is about.
The Official Book Blurb
The hole they dug was not deep. A white flour bag encased the little body. Three small faces watched from the window, eyes black with terror.
The child in the middle spoke without turning his head. ‘I wonder which one of us will be next?’
When a woman’s body is discovered in a cathedral and hours later a young man is found hanging from a tree outside his home, Detective Lottie Parker is called in to lead the investigation. Both bodies have the same distinctive tattoo clumsily inscribed on their legs. It’s clear the pair are connected, but how?
The trail leads Lottie to St Angela’s, a former children’s home, with a dark connection to her own family history. Suddenly the case just got personal.
As Lottie begins to link the current victims to unsolved murders decades old, two teenage boys go missing. She must close in on the killer before they strike again, but in doing so is she putting her own children in terrifying danger?
Lottie is about to come face to face with a twisted soul who has a very warped idea of justice.
I’m always intrigued when Bookouture sign a new author or release a new book, particularly when it falls into the crime genre. I’m not going to lie. I really do enjoy a good crime mystery and when they announced they were to publish a new series featuring Detective Lottie Parker I jumped at the opportunity to pre-order and since then have been looking forward to reading it. I have high expectations when it comes to a Bookouture book and I am delighted to say that this one met every single one of them.
Set in a small Midlands community in Ireland, The Missing Ones is a somewhat twisted and occasionally disturbing tale which follows Detective Inspector Lottie Parker’s investigation into the suspicious deaths of two colleagues from the local planning department. One was found murdered in the Cathedral, the other other found hanging outside his home. They are connected by their work but it is up to Lottie and her team to determine if the connection runs deeper. With a number of dubious characters on the edges of the investigation, and the local Bishop who seems to be stalling their progress when one of his Priests is a key suspect, it is a far from simple case to solve. And with Lottie struggling to balance her personal and working life, the scene is set for a thrilling read.
Now this is not necessarily an easy book to read, depending on your tolerance for certain subject matters. The backstory includes historic child abuse, none of which is described in any necessarily graphic detail, but it is enough to create a certain feeling of discomfort at times. Most of this is told in brief flashback chapters in which we see the world through the eyes of the children being abused. It is not told in their voice but it is no less effective in provoking an emotional response and there is never any doubt over what is happening. It just may be less clear who is doing the abusing and Gibney creates enough diversion and distraction to keep this hidden until the very end.
In terms of characterisation, Gibney has created a whole host of truly loathesome and unsavoury types to pit Lottie and her team against. You never quite know who to trust as they all seem to have an agenda of some kind or another. The writing is so effective in diverting attention that at times even those who should perhaps have pure motive seem to be questionable in their actions, the simplest of acts given almost double meaning. The exception to this rule, the only ones who appear trustworthy other than the victims themselves who garner utmost sympathy as the story progresses, are Lottie and Boyd, the two main Detectives in the team.
Lottie is a strong female protagonist, which is always good to see, but she is as flawed and ultimately human as the rest of us. Lost in grief, she is stuck somewhere between being a good mother and an effective Detective, but it is invariably her job that wins out. She will not be kept down, ignores her bosses (as all good Detectives seem to do) and will work hard to follow any and all leads, regardless of obstructions. She has a complicated relationship with her partner, Boyd; something more than colleagues but not quite bridging the gap to a romantic coupling. I really liked the dynamic between the pair of them; the tentative way they circled each other on a personal level while still excelling as a Detective duo. They play off each other, sparring well, with Boyd acting as a calming influence to the more volatile or impetuous Lottie. I kind of liked the other male Detective, Kirby, too. Although he featured less, he was an interesting, slightly humorous character always in the background, plodding and sometimes clumsy in approach but still likeable. Lynch, the other female Detective I am not yet sure of, perhaps my opinions clouded by those of Lottie who was more than wary of her junior Detective.
The book starts as it means to go on; a dark and chilling prologue that sets both tone and expectation for what will follow. It poses questions that you will need to be answered and only as you read on will you discover the who, what and why of what you have read. The pacing is variable, rising and sinking in waves depending on the urgency of the investigation. Where the investigation stalls, the narrative flow slows with it and yet there are moments of great tension, where the pace picks up brilliantly, echoing the action and the ultimate sense of jeopardy emanating from the page. You can almost taste the fear at times as certain characters are threatened, their lives placed in grave danger, but you also sense the acceptance and resignation of others at what comes to pass. There is true sadness in the pages as a whole disturbing history is brought out into the open. Gibney perfectly captures the feeling of what it meant to live in Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s and the impacts Religion and its strict observance had upon characters in the present day. I got a true sense of setting from the prose, both in a physical and historical sense.
This really was a page turning read and I worked through this in just over a day. It was only really work and other commitments that stopped me reading it faster. I was absorbed by the story, engaged by the characters and desperate, and yet not, to read the ending. I would certainly put Patricia Gibney into the list of must read authors for me and I shall wait (almost) patiently for the second instalment in this series. If it delivers as much as this first story did, it’s bound to be a cracker.
A chilling and emotional 4.5 stars.
My thanks to NetGalley and Publishers Bookouture who provided the ARC of The Missing Ones. It is released today and is available or purchase from the following sites: