Title: The Lost Children
Author: Helen Phifer
Publication Date: 24th March 2017
Format: ARC e-Book
Note: This book was received from the publisher in return for an honest review
About the book:
Lizzy pulled the covers over her head. Then she realised what was being dragged behind the person with the torch. She rammed her fist into her mouth to stop herself from screaming…
For decades, The Moore Asylum was home to the forgotten children of Brooklyn Bay. But ever since a scandal forced its closure, the abandoned building has cast an imposing shadow. Until now – when an elderly man is found dead, his body strapped to an ancient gurney…
Detective Lucy Harwin, still reeling from a previous case that ended in the devastating murder of a mother and her child, finds herself on the trail of a killer ruthlessly fixated on avenging the asylum’s wrongs.
What disturbing secrets lie within the asylum’s walls? Together with her partner Detective Mattie Jackson, Lucy begins to unearth its terrible history, and the horrors endured by the vulnerable children.
As the attacks escalate and a woman is murdered on her own doorstep, Lucy is forced into a terrifying game of cat and mouse with a twisted individual. But can Lucy stop a murderer with nothing left to lose?
What I Thought:
The Lost Children is the first book in a new series by Helen Phifer. Set in the fictional English town of Brooklyn Bay The Lost Children introduces us to the main protagonist Detective Inspector Lucy Harwin, and the rest of her team including Detective Sergeant Mattie Jackson.
The book opens with a prologue based in 1975, before switching to the present day where a body is discovered in a long abandoned mental hospital, last used to house troubled children. On her first day back at work following an extended leave of absence Lucy finds herself called to take charge of the gruesome crime scene. When a second body is found not long after and a link between the two victims is discovered it becomes clear to Lucy that the murders are connected to something that happened in the past, something related to the asylum’s closure. The novel frequently flashes back to the asylum in 1975, with the interspersed chapters building a picture of the horrors of Ward 13.
I don’t want to focus on the plot to much because that would mean spoilers! But I will say for me the book was wonderfully paced, the characters are introduced as the plot moves along so you’re straight into the action from the beginning, there’s no long set up while the main characters and the location are introduced. The flashback chapters create a greater understanding of the history and the crime without being too long that they distract from the present day action.
I found Detective Inspector Lucy Harwin to be a great character. I really enjoyed the fact she was flawed, she’s good at her job but perhaps gets a little too emotionally involved with her cases, but her personal life is a bit of a mess. She still has feelings for her ex and while she clearly loves her daughter she doesn’t find parenting as easy as policing and her relationship with her teenage daughter is strained – I think this reflected the reality of a demanding job, particularly one that is emotionally demanding as well as involving long and unsociable hours. Again I think it’s an area where Helen has got the mix just right, enough of the personal life to develop a well-rounded character without distracting from the main narrative. The only area I would have liked a little more detail would be the reason that Lucy was suspended previously, you do get a brief explanation, which I think is the right decision for the book, anymore would have taken away from the current case, however I would like to find out more about what went wrong before.
Mattie isn’t quite as well-developed as Lucy in The Lost Children. He is obviously a good detective and we learn a little about his personal life throughout the book. It’s clear that Mattie and Lucy would be considered friends as well as colleagues, and Mattie genuinely cares about Lucy’s wellbeing even when perhaps she wishes he would stop asking. I really liked the character and look forward to further development in future books.
There are a number of other supporting characters, and I can honestly say I didn’t have a problem with any of them, I think they all came across as realistic, from the DS who doesn’t always see eye to eye with Lucy but would still have her back if she really needed it, the eager to please young DC who is a whiz with computers to the DCI who claims to care about Lucy’s wellbeing on her return to work, but is more concerned about how anything that happens could reflect on the force once the press get their hands on it. I also found the characters directly related to the crime to be considered and well written. All in all it’s a really strong start to a series.
Would I recommend it?
Absolutely yes. Helen Phifer did a great job with this novel, she manages to introduce a whole range of characters while keeping the plot moving at a steady pace, something I feel a lot of first books in a series struggle with. It’s an interesting plot that kept me turning pages and I can’t wait for more. I really hope that a future novel has more of a focus on Lucy’s last case that led to her suspension. If you like a contemporary crime fiction tale this is one for you.