During a winter blizzard a small girl is found wandering half-naked at the edge of an ancient woodland. Her hands are covered in blood, but it is not her own. Unwilling or unable to speak, the only person she seems to trust is the young officer who rescued her, Detective Sergeant Lucy Vaughan. DS Vaughan is baffled to find herself suddenly transferred from a high-profile case involving the kidnapping of a prominent businessman’s teenage daughter, to the newly formed Public Protection Unit. Meanwhile, she has her own problems: caring for her Alzheimer’s-stricken father, and avoiding conflict with her surly Assistant Chief Constable – who also happens to be her mother. As she struggles to identify the unclaimed child, Lucy begins to realise that this case and the kidnapping may be linked – by events that occurred during the blackest days of the country’s recent history, events that also defined her own girlhood. LITTLE GIRL LOST is a devastating page-turner about corruption, greed and vengeance, and a father’s love for his daughter.Fans of McGilloway’s Inspector Devlin may be disappointed to learn that LITTLE GIRL LOST is not the latest in that particular series, but is instead a standalone novel (or very possibly the first in an entirely new series). For what it’s worth, I’m always intrigued when a writer decides to stretch him or herself by stepping out of their comfort zone. The Devlin series is a critically acclaimed one, and has nabbed a number of short-list nominations for McGilloway, so I’m sure it would have been the easiest thing in the world for him to stick with the tried and tested, especially as he’s still a relatively young writer. Kudos to him, then, for striking out in a new direction; and kudos too to his publisher for embracing the change, particularly as the current climate in mainstream publishing is characterised by caution and conservatism.
The bottom line, I suppose, is that a good writer is a good writer, regardless of his of her characters, themes or settings. In the past I’ve heard John Connolly declare that the way to build a successful publishing platform is a number of novels that deliver ‘the same again, only different’ - which advice may be slightly tongue-in-cheek, given that Connolly himself is prone to diversions such as THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS and THE GATES (the former, incidentally, will be getting a mass paperback release in the US this year, while the latter gets a sequel, HELL’S BELLS, in May).
As an occasional author myself, I like to mix it up. EIGHTBALL BOOGIE was / is a first-person private eye novel; THE BIG O was / is a multi-character crime caper; and BAD FOR GOOD (aka THE BABY KILLERS) was / is … well, I’m still not entirely sure what that sucker is, although it does revel in the subtitle ‘A Gonzo Noir’. Meanwhile, I’ve written a sequel to THE BIG O, and I’ve written two more first-person private eye novels, but the idea of getting locked in to one character or type of story is not something that appeals; the story I’m ‘working on’ now is as different to the stories I’ve already written as BAD FOR GOOD was different to THE BIG O. I suppose it comes down to the fact that, as a reader, I like to read widely, in all genres and none; so it’s hardly surprising that when I do turn to writing, that I prefer to write different kinds of stories too.
The Big Q here, though, is whether Brian McGilloway’s fans will be happy to take the new direction on board when LITTLE GIRL LOST is published in May. If a new Chandler novel, for example, was discovered, would I be delighted or disappointed to learn that it wasn’t a Marlowe novel? The question, I suppose, is whether we read an author for the author or for his characters. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing how McGilloway, a very highly rated writer here at CAP Towers, handles his new material. Roll on May …