What Was Lost
Posted by: Gary Niebuhr
Our winter crime fiction book discussion kicked off the New Year by reading What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn. This novel is O’Flynn’s first and it is quite the ambitious effort for a fledgling novelist.
The story is told in three parts. The first part takes place in 1984. Here we have the actions and thoughts of a ten year old girl named Kate Meaney. As a coping mechanism, Kate has formed Falcon Investigations and spends her free time on stakeouts. Her goal is to prevent a crime but we understand it is also to fill her time as her life is not all it should be. She does strike up a friendship with a 22 year old man named Adrian who, despite his university experience, has settled for a life behind the counter of his father’s sweet shop.
The second part of the novel takes place twenty years later. We meet Lisa, Adrian’s sister, who is now working at the Green Oaks mall in the Your Music store. We also meet Kurt, a security guard who one lonely night believes he sees the image of Kate, still 10, in his security camera display.
It seems that Kate disappeared without a trace twenty years prior and Adrian was suspected.
The third portion of this novel is made up of italicized accounts of various happenings in conjunction with Green Oaks. Each vignette that is recounted adds one more layer of mystery and misery in the lives of people who come to the mall for all that it offers.
The book is an odd mixture of styles. While Kate’s detecting work has some of the flavor of Flavia in the Alan Bradley books, Lisa and Kurt’s portion is much more in the Holden Caulfield mode. While odd might sound like a negative word, here it implies engagement. The style is so edgy that this book takes on the tone of a Stephen King novel at points.
Under terms of full disclosure, quite a few of my participants did not like this book. I did and I wonder if they were confusing not liking the situations and the characters with not liking the book. I am going to vote in favor and point out, once again, that the group’s displeasure only made our discussion more valuable.