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Lost by Michael Robotham

 
From the Dustjacket
 
Eighty-five steps and then darkness... She's gone. Vanished. Not from my memory but within these walls where water sings in metal pipes and soot-stained bricks crumble at the edges. How can a child disappear in a building with only five floors and eleven flats?

Everyone knows that Mickey Carlyle is dead and a man is in prison for her murder. Everybody that is except Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz who cannot stop searching and hoping. He is found one night, clinging to a buoy in the River Thames, with a bullet in his leg and a photograph of Mickey in his pocket. Nearby is a boat that looks like a floating abattoir.

Ruiz's service pistol is missing and so is his memory. Under investigation by his colleagues and accused of faking amnesia, his only hope of unravelling the puzzle is to retrace his steps and relive that night with the help of psychologist Joseph O'Loughlin. Facts, not memories, solve cases. Facts, not memories will tell him what happened to Mickey Carlyle.

Publisher : Time Warner
First published : 2005
ISBN : 0316728691
No. Pages : 390 pages
 
My Review
 
After delivering a pulsating debut thriller with The Suspect and introducing us to a couple of characters in Dr Joseph O'Loughlin and DI Vincent Ruiz , who are as opposite to one another as you would want to meet, Michael Robotham has followed up with Lost another riveting thriller.

Lost carries on with O'Loughlin and Ruiz again featuring very prominently. But Robotham has performed a sneaky little switch. In The Suspect, the story was told from the first person perspective of Joe O'Loughlin, a clinical psychologist who had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. The first person perspective is again used in Lost, but this time, the story is being told by Vincent Ruiz and Ruiz is a much more abrasive, in your face character with a very dry sense of humour, as evidenced by the following observation:

"My stepfather died at a bus stop in Bradford in October 1995. He had a stroke on his way to see a heart specialist. See what happens when buses don't run on time?"

The story opens as Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz is being pulled out of the Thames. He is in a pretty bad way thanks in large part to the bullet that had passed through his leg. He wakes from surgery to find that he has no memory of the incident or of the week leading up to it.

With the help of friend and clinical psychologist Dr Joseph O'Loughlin, Ruiz can piece together enough details to work out that he was working on the disappearance of 8 year old Mickey Carlyle and he was on the Thames to make a kidnapping payoff. The problem with this scenario is that the Mickey Carlyle case was closed 3 years ago and a man is already in prison for the young girl's murder. From what he can gather he has been working the case alone, independent of the police department, a fact that has made him extremely unpopular with his superiors.

The moment Ruiz is capable of walking he checks himself out of the hospital, anxious to begin retracing his own steps in a bid to recall the circumstances leading up to his accident. Thanks to a couple of memory flashes, Ruiz is almost certain that Mickey is still alive and being held by her captors. But Chief Superintendent Campbell Smith is having none of it, ordering Ruiz to drop the case of face suspension from the force.

As Ruiz retraces his steps he tends to replay some old and significant memories of his life, some of them painful, bringing together a more complete awareness of himself. In effect, losing his memory has helped him find himself. Meanwhile, his hunt for answers takes him: into the sewers of London deep below the city streets; into the Thames; onto the trail of a dangerous mobster, and; into the life of a pedophile.

Set at a reasonably moderate pace, Lost is shrouded in mystery as the majority of the storyline focuses on the frustration of Ruiz as he struggles with memories that lie just out of reach. Bit by bit he retraces his steps with the excitement provided by unsuccessful attempts made on his life.

Robotham writes with an easy, practiced style that combines the intensity of extreme danger with a witty, dry delivery. It's intense and relentless providing an engrossing story with an unknown element that remains in place right up until the final few chapters.

A strong rapport is enjoyed , antagonists in the earlier book, The Suspect. Ruiz's rough demeanor is counterbalanced by the more composed O'Loughlin who has a talent for reading other people's unconscious mannerisms to gain intimate insights that make for some fascinating reading. When Ruiz enlists the help of DC Alisha Barba, a young police officer who has been overlooked for promotion too often, a further solid partnership is created with the presence of the young female police officer providing a sounding board for Ruiz's theories.

Where the story falls down is in the area of plausibility. The gunshot wound sustained by Vincent Ruiz in the opening scene would be enough to cripple a man for months, yet not only is Ruiz back on his feet in days but he is in vigorous pursuit of assailants followed by grueling trips through sewers thrown in with barely a though given to his ruined leg. The only concession made to the pain was the occasional popping of a morphine pill which appeared to be enough to grant superhuman powers of recovery.

Lost won the 2005 Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Novel (the Australian equivalent the Edgar Awards) and delivers an outstanding thriller with complex characters, pressure coming from both within the police force and from a dangerous unknown assailant and a strong unexpected ending. This is a very satisfying novel that I found compulsive reading and would recommend it to all psychological thriller fans.

 

Roll of Honour
2005 Ned Kelly Award - Best Novel - ** Winner **
2006 Barry Award - Best British Novel Published in UK - ** Nominee **

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