by Patricia Gibney
The Missing Ones is a little bit like a poo-poo platter at a mid-level Chinese restaurant. It’s good, but it’s a little of this and a little of that.
It’s got the modern woman, Detective Inspector (DI) Lottie Parker, handling a demanding nontraditional professional job and raising three kids as a widow. It’s got a cabal of developers and two murder victims who worked in the local planning office. It’s got the Catholic Church and its widespread history of child abuse. And, lastly, it’s got the atmospheric and evil St. Angela’s orphanage brooding in the background.
This is the sort of book you put in a guest room, a carry-on or a beach bag. It’s entertaining to the end, but doesn’t hold up to a lot scrutiny.
The story opens on the eve of New Year’s Eve 2014 with the murder of Susan Sullivan in Ragmullin’s church. Lottie’s narcissistic boss, Supt. Myles Corrigan, reached the scene first and is tossing orders around like confetti. Lottie has arrived with Detective Sergeant Mark Boyd, who was in competition with her for the detective inspector’s position. They’ve fallen into bed once or twice, leaving Boyd wanting more and Lottie wanting to run.
Sullivan worked in the county council office. Her supervisor, James Brown, is visibly shaken by the news. By that evening, Brown has become the next victim.
And so it goes. Sullivan’s freezer is found full of money. Brown has his own stash of cash. Bishop Terrence Conor of the local diocese requests Lottie’s presence to tell her that a visiting priest has gone missing. By Jan. 3, he’s found dead in Brown’s garden. Lottie has turned to her mother, with whom she has an uneasy relationship, tracking down a lead. Her mother, it turns out, is a midwife who delivered babies from time to time at St. Angela’s. She confirms that Susan Sullivan, under a different name, was one of the children at St. Angela’s.
Interspersed with the events unfolding in 2014 are brief accounts of events at St. Angela’s in the early 1970s. These descriptions are the stuff of nightmares: midnight rituals, brutal beatings, fatalities and priests having sex with young girls.
One of the saving graces of this book is the characters. Lottie is warm, likeable and easy to believe in. Between the demands of her job and the challenges of her three kids, she’s stretched to the limits. DS Boyd is also easy to like. He’s quiet but doesn’t seem to have difficulties working for a woman or for Lottie who beat him out of the detective inspector’s job. The plot has so many seemingly unrelated moving parts that the suspense builds solidly to the end.
Ultimately, this story is a little manic. I’m unlikely to read the books that follow, although I don’t regret reading this one.
About the Author: Patricia Gibney
Patricia Gibney is a lifelong resident of County Westmeath, Ireland. As a widow with three children, she has a lot in common with her protagonist Detective Inspector Lottie Parker. She started started writing as therapy for dealing with her grief at the death of her husband Aidan.
The Missing Ones, published in 2017, is her first novel. It has been followed by two other books in the series, The Stolen Girls and The Lost Child.