Friday 2 July 2010

Book Review : Little Girls Lost - J. A. Kerley

Having already read Blood Brother, I came to this book with very high expectations but also some degree of apprehension, having frequently found that sequels just don't measure up to their blinding opening episodes. I needn't have worried. J.A. Kerley is an absolute master of crime fiction and, within moments, had me completely sucked in and on the edge of my seat. By the end of the book, I'd been holding my breath for so long that I was as blue in the face as Smurfette !

Little Girls Lost is billed as the sixth novel in the Carson Ryder series but in this book, he only has a supporting role. If you haven't read any of the others, do not be put off. Each novel is a gem of crime fiction which can be thoroughly enjoyed as a stand-alone novel. The proof is that the only other Carson Ryder book that I have read, Blood Brother, was the fourth episode in the series. I didn't feel any sense of discontinuity or missing background information jumping from the fourth to the sixth book - although I do now want to go back and read the whole series in order.

In this novel, Detective Carson Ryder's partner is in hospital recovering from a stabbing - which I assume took place in one of the previous tomes. Into the spotlight steps Conner Sandhill, aka The Gumbo King, a volatile and unpredictable but highly efficient ex-cop with an uncanny ability to sniff out the most tenuous leads and link them together. He has reinvented himself as a gumbo restaurant owner, having left the police in sketchy but dubious circumstances, but is drafted back in to help out when little girls start being snatched off the streets.

The Little Girls Lost of the title are the victims of a child abduction ring, specialised in sending cute little girls to rich pedophiles. The "baddies" are disturbingly twisted and depraved and their actions and absolute lack of humanity are at times stomach-churning. The "good guys" are multi-faceted, deeply-developed characters, rather than stereotypical perfect heroes, and the interplay between the characters is full of drama. The mix of office politics, corrupt cops and explosive tempers is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off, and the reader just has to hope that the little girls will be found in time before the whole lot goes up !

Little Girls Lost is a fast-paced, adrenalin-fuelled page-turner of a novel that cannot leave the reader indifferent. Despite knowing pretty much from the start, as with Hollywood blockbusters, that there will be the inevitable happy ending, it's a nail-biting read that will have you really rooting for the good guys until the final page. The author also gives us an interesting but chilling insight into the mentality of the sordid child-sex underworld that is hard to forget. J.A. Kerley has just secured himself a place near the top of my list of "must read" authors.

star rating : 5/5

Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Harper (29 Oct 2009)
ISBN-10: 0007342284
ISBN-13: 978-0007342280

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