Thursday, September 18, 2008

What Was Lost is a mystery novel by Catherine O'Flynn that jumps between 1984, when a 10 year old girl disappears, and the present day, when the mystery is finally cleared up. Kate Meaney is a school girl from Birmingham, England who dreams of being a detective. She goes to the local shopping mall on an almost daily basis to scout for suspicious behavior and observe suspects. One day, she simply disappears. Because she is friendly with Adrian, a 22 year old man in the neighborhood, he immediately becomes the chief suspect in her disappearance. Harassment by the police and hostility from the neighbors force him to move from the area.

Twenty years later, Adrian's sister is now an Assistant Manager of the music store in the mall. She, along with nearly everyone else in the novel, hates her job and her very existence. Her brother has sent her music tapes over the years, and she is always hopeful that she will be able to contact him in the future. She befriends a fellow misery guts, a mall security guard, and they eventually begin dating. Her family, the security guard and the mall itself all figure in the resolution of the girl's disappearance.

The really strange thing that occurred to me, as I listened to the audio version of the novel, was the complete hostility and contempt that the author had for shopping malls in general, and music stores in particular. She details the shabby facilities provided for staff, the maddening customers, the ridiculous jargon of management and other factors which she apparently became familiar with when she herself worked in a music store. There is also a funny and true to life section about mystery shopping, another previous vocation of the author. An unusual part of the book is that random thoughts of various customers who are in the mall are shared with the reader. As with the mall employees, most shoppers aren't too happy to be there, either.

On another note, I received an email that the author Alexander McCall Smith will be participating in a live online chat this Friday as part of the National Book Festival. Readers are invited to submit questions. He was a really enjoyable and funny speaker on the recording Confessions of a Serial Novelist, so I have high hopes for the live chat!

Final Verdict for What Was Lost: Two Gherkins, for being an engaging mystery about a child's disappearance, but a real downer of a book due to the unhappiness of all of the characters


About Me

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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The Gherkin Scale

5gherkinsb Brilliant!

4gherkinsb Good, innit?

3gherkinsb Fair to middlin'

2gherkinsb Has some good points

1gherkin Oi! Wot you playin' at?

0gherkins3Don't be givin' me evils!

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