Religion and sex collide in The Lost by Claire McGowan (Headline, pb, €19.99), her second novel after 2012’s debut The Fall and the first of a series to feature forensic psychologist Paula Maguire. Opening in London, where the Northern Ireland-born Paula scores a notable success in locating a missing girl, the story moves to Ballyterrin in Northern Ireland, a small Border town that strongly resembles McGowan’s native Newry. Seconded to a newly formed Missing Persons unit, Paula is charged with discovering the whereabouts of two teenagers who have recently disappeared, and her investigation – very little of it officially sanctioned – leads her to suspect that the disappearances may be linked to similar, unsolved cases dating from 1985. In a different setting, The Lost might well have been a straightforward tale of abduction and serial killing, but the Northern Ireland backdrop offers sub-plots incorporating sectarian bigotry, religious and political fundamentalism, and a heavy-handed sexual repression that manifests itself in a number of ugly ways. Not all of the plot strands are resolved in a plausible fashion by the conclusion of the breathless climax, but McGowan’s pacy, direct style ensures that the twists come thick and fast. As for Paula Maguire, she makes for a satisfyingly complex heroine, a quietly determined professional determined to prove herself on her home turf but privately as vulnerable as any of the young women she seeks to find, and her investigation into ‘Ballyterrin’s’ recent history, and her own tortured past, should prove fascinating as the series evolves. – Declan BurkeThis review was first published in the Irish Times.
“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.
Friday, March 22, 2013
Claire For Take-Off
I had a review of Claire McGowan’s THE LOST (Headline) published in the Irish Times last weekend, as part of a crime / mystery column, although I can’t seem to find the link. A pity, that. Anyway, the review ran a lot like this: