Catherine O’Flynn’s debut novel was first published way back in January 2007, but it recently won the Costa First Novel Award, a coup for its independent Birmingham-based publishers, Tindal Street Press. However, a year and a half later, the subject matter is still relevant and captures the zeitgeist, as it explores the impact that a missing child has on a community and various individuals 20 years after the event.
O’Flynn divides her narrative into four separate parts, which skip from the voice of Kate Meaney, the 10-year-old amateur detective who vanishes without a trace from Green Oaks shopping centre in 1984, to those of Lisa, a disenchanted deputy manager at a chain music store, and Kurt a security guard who keeps seeing a little girl on the CCTV footage in the dead of night. Both live in 2004, and Kate’s disappearance has affected each in different ways.
Disparate other voices are also interspersed into the main body of the story; all are anonymous, reflecting the centre’s unification but ultimate isolation of very different people.
O’Flynn splices a variety of genres in WHAT WAS LOST: she successfully mixes crime tropes with those of literary and women’s fiction and the result is a touching, often funny, tale of love and loss within the sterile confines of a homogenous shopping centre and its fractured, post-consumerist community. – Claire Coughlan
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.