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Posts Tagged ‘missing girl’

THE NOWHERE CHILD by Christian White: Book Review

Coming from two countries relatively new to the genre, Australian and Icelandic authors have been very busy over the past few years writing excellent mysteries.  The Nowhere Child by Christian White is the latest from Down Under, and it is a spellbinding novel with a unique plot.

Kimberly Leamy is sitting in the cafeteria of a school in Melbourne, where she teaches photography, when a man comes up to her and introduces himself as James Finn.  He shows her a photo of a young child and asks Kim if she knows her.  She responds that she doesn’t, and James tells her the girl is Sammy Went, who disappeared from her home in Manson, Kentucky when she was two years old.

Trying to be polite, Kim starts to direct him to the woman who teaches Crimes and Justice Studies at the school, but James isn’t interested.  “I believe you’re…connected to all this,” he tells Kim, continuing to say that the toddler disappeared twenty-eight years ago.  “I think you are Sammy Went.”

To use Australian slang, Kim is “like a stunned mullet” (courtesy of “The Aussie English” podcast).  Upon returning home that evening she searches the Internet for anything related to Sammy Went.  Sure enough, she immediately finds an article from 1990 about the search for the missing girl that features a quote from Manson Sheriff Chester Ellis.  “We have faith we’re going to find Sammy and bring her home,” the article read, but it’s obvious that that never happened.

As Kim continues looking for more information on the net, she sees a photo in another article and notes the strong resemblance between herself and the girl’s parents.  When another meeting with the man calling himself James Finn reveals that he is actually Stuart Went, Sammy’s older brother, Kim starts to believe that the unbelievable just might be possible.

The Nowhere Child switches in time and narration from the day Sammy was kidnapped, which is told in the third person, to the present day told in Kim’s voice.  We see the dynamics of Sammy’s dysfunctional family then and now and learn the story of how the child arrived in Australia and came to be adopted by Carol Leamy, the woman Kim always thought of as her biological mother.

Carol died several years before the novel opens, so now Kim’s family consists only of her younger sister Amy and her stepfather Dean.  Amy knows nothing about this, but Dean, when confronted by Kim, is forced to face the issue.  “She made me promise, Kimmy.  She wanted the secret to die with her,” Dean tells her.

No longer in doubt about her past, Kim makes the decision to fly to Manson with Stuart and find out exactly what happened on the day she disappeared.

Christian White’s debut novel won the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, and it is easy to understand why.  The Nowhere Child is a thrilling story of a dysfunctional family and the secrets kept for decades that span two continents.

You can read more about Christian White at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

MOONLIGHT MILE by Dennis Lehane: Book Review

Dennis Lehane is one of the few contemporary mystery novelists whose books have been made into successful films.  Think Shutter Island, Mystic River, and the novel that precedes Moonlight Mile–Gone, Baby, Gone.

Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro were the investigators in Gone, Baby, Gone. They found four-year-old Amanda McCready, who had been taken from her neglectful mother and was living with a loving couple who desperately wanted to keep her.  The problem was, little Amanda had been abducted, not taken legally via the Massachusetts Department of Social Services, and at the end of G,B,G the investigators were faced with a heart-wrenching decision–to keep Amanda in her new, caring home or return her to her drug-addicted mother.

Kenzie’s decision to return the girl to her mother caused the breakup of his relationship with Gennaro.  As Moonlight Mile opens, it’s twelve years later and Kenzie and Gennaro have reconciled, married, and are the parents of their own four-year-old daughter, Gabriella. They are struggling financially, as Kenzie is now the sole breadwinner while Gennaro has returned to school and is almost finished with her master’s in social work.  Then they get a call from Amanda’s aunt–the girl is missing again and the police aren’t interested in doing anything about it.

Much against Kenzie’s better judgment, he and his wife are again pressed into looking for the missing girl.  Amanda has seemingly turned her life around and is an outstanding student at a prestigious private school, but she is an aloof, hard-shelled girl whom no one seems to know.  And her mother is involved with another criminal type and not very interested in finding out what has happened to her daughter.

The case gets more involved than simply finding Amanda, as Kenzie and Gennaro apparently aren’t the only ones looking for her. Amanda’s best/only friend, Sophie, is also missing, and neither Sophie’s self-righteous father nor Amanda’s social worker, Dre Stiles, seems to have a clue as to the whereabouts of the girls.  And then a group of Russian mobsters enters the picture, determined to find Amanda, Sophie, and an antique cross of great interest to the boss of the mob.

Kenzie is still dealing with the issues from the twelve-year-old kidnapping case.  He believes he did the right thing by returning the child to her mother, although Gennaro strongly disagrees with him.  Can one do what he thinks is morally right and still be haunted by that decision? Would Amanda have been better served by leaving her with the people who would have been “better” parents, or would she have grown up and always wondered where her “real” mother was?  That decision affected not only Amanda but also the man and woman who took her in and her own aunt and uncle who placed her with them.

In Moonlight Mile Lehane explores these ideas, plus the reality of living in today’s economy. The Kenzie/Gennaro family lives from paycheck to paycheck, and Kenzie must weigh the appeal of accepting a secure job that means working for people only concerned with the bottom line or continuing to worry daily about finances and his family’s financial well-being.

As always, Dennis Lehane has crafted a fast-paced, realistic story about modern life, crimes past and present, and how the decisions of years ago impact on life today.

You can read more about Dennis Lehane at his web site.