Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Last Lost Girl

The Last Lost Girl by Maria Hoey
Poolbeg Crimson Press Ltd: 7/11/17
digital reading copy; 448 pages
paperback ISBN-13: 9781781998311

The Last Lost Girl by Maria Hoey is a highly recommended family drama and mystery set in Ireland during two time periods.

In the summer of 1976 Jacqueline Brennan's fifteen-year-old sister, Lilly, disappeared. Of the Brennan girls, Lilly is the beautiful older sister, Gayle is the middle sister, and eleven-year-old Jacqueline is the youngest. During 1976, Lilly is chaffing under her father's rules and is secretly seeing a boy who works at the carnival. Much like any younger child, Jacqueline secretly watches her older sister, trying to capture clues about what she is doing, thinking, and planning.

Jumping thirty seven year later, now Jacqueline is returning to her childhood home in Blackberry Lane to visit her father for several weeks. Gayle is usually the one who regularly visits him and takes care of him, especially during the anniversary of Lilly's disappearance, but she has other pressing needs with her own family so it falls to Jacqueline to stay with him. While in her old home events happen that lead her to search for the truth about what happened to Lilly. Jacqueline has always believed that Lilly ran away and may still be alive somewhere today. The police never found a body and there were no arrests. After finding an old postcard at her father's house, she sets off to see if it holds a clue to Lilly's whereabouts.

The Last Lost Girl is a well written family drama with a narrative that jumps back and forth between the two time periods and what was happening in the Brennan family, including the increasingly rebellious behavior of Lilly.  While the question of the mystery is captivating, it also drags out a bit when Jacqueline takes off for England in hopes of clues or information about what happened to Lilly. This section is more a time of self-discovery for Jacqueline more than any in-depth fact-gathering mission.

While the character of Jacqueline and the fifteen-year-old Lilly are well developed, neither are particularly sympathetic characters. Young Jacqueline is portrayed as a typical younger sister snooping on her older sister, who resents her and her snooping. Sibling rivalry, and secrets, abound, as does some favoritism by the parents. Jacqueline does grow as a person, which is a plus.

The ending provides closure for the mystery, but I found it to be too abrupt and a little unbelievable. The Last Lost Girl is really more about Jacqueline growing as a person than a thrilling mystery. What happened to Lilly is supposedly the big question, but Jacqueline's sudden search almost seems too contrived. As a single, independent woman she could have searched for her sister long before this and, after asking a few questions, would have visited the same place in England without the discovery of the postcard. Read this one for the great writing, and the self-discovery rather than the mystery.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of the publisher/author via Library Thing.

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