The hole they dug was not deep. A white flour bag encased the little body. Three small faces watched from the window, eyes black with terror. The child in the middle spoke without turning his head. "I wonder which one of us will be next?" When a woman's body is discovered in a cathedral and hours later a young man is found hanging from a tree outside his home, Detective Lottie Parker is called in to lead the investigation. Both bodies have the same distinctive tattoo clumsily inscribed on their legs. It's clear the pair are connected, but how? The trail leads Lottie to St Angela's, a former children's home, with a dark connection to her own family history. Suddenly the case just got personal. As Lottie begins to link the current victims to unsolved murders decades old, two teenage boys go missing. She must close in on the killer before they strike again, but in doing so is she putting her own children in terrifying danger? Lottie is about to come face to face with a twisted soul who has a very warped idea of justice.
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Irish church and state history of corruption erupts in vengeance and violence- to what end?
I am left scratching my head after finishing "The Missing Ones," perhaps more so than after any mystery/suspense novel in recent memory- and not in a positive way.
The mystery or mysteries(?) exist, that is true. In retrospect I can untangle a few different strands of mystery-type plot that either run throughout the whole book or start somewhere and maybe end somewhere, some resolved to some satisfaction or sense, some not at all. I felt that some of the many tangential plots going on were not helpfully contributing to what I think was the author's intended main idea. Some of them were not interesting. Some were just strange.
For example, DI Lottie Parker herself is the root of many odd side-plots and anachronisms that I could barely stand. I found this character extremely unlikeable. Often, a main character who is prickly of personality has other redeeming qualities, such as, loyalty to her team, or brilliant detective skills, or extreme dedication in search of the truth. Here, I saw an attempt at a cliched "flawed personality" taken to an unpleasant extreme, if that makes sense. She is unlikeable. No sense of humor (only her loyal sidekick Boyd thinks she is endearing when she swears at him and puts him down constantly, and I mean constantly, and uses him as a drunk-dial when she's black-out drunk, which he falls for every time). To me, no underlying heart of gold. She acts unkindly to pretty much everyone. She is disrespectful to her investigative team. There is no sense of morale. The author deftly describes the cold weather at every turn. We can imagine the cold, gray expanse. We can also imagine a cold, gray incident room. For example, when one of her DCs tries to actually do his job and draws a diagram to try and connect different victims, she publicly insults him, meanwhile sitting at her desk bemoaning it's messiness and making fun of Boyd for being so neat and orderly.
DI Parker "solves" the main mystery, kind of, through the use of archival records which she accesses only through the kindness of a rogue priest who risks excommunication for her. Then she gets lucky when other people sort of show up out of the woodwork and tell her stuff. She doesn't do much, truly. She sends out her people, then yells at them for doing a bad job, but I'm serious- she doesn't really do a lot of detective work unless it falls in her lap, and even then she has trouble connecting the dots when the reader has figured it out 250 pages ago.
Overall, I finished the book because I wanted to see a resolution. The last 1/4 finally got good. The first 3/4 dragged with little progress. DI Parker was not pleasant or interesting enough to make up for the lack of action happening. The other characters were mediocre. The boss cop was a bad caricature of a cranky boss again taken to painful extremes. The crimes were strangely evil without ever really being explained or their reasons examined. The snapshots back to 40 years ago could have been so much more interesting, but they were just blips. I didn't get it.
I won't even discuss her family life. It was just as annoying if not more so than her sad performance as a detective and leader.
I am disappointed with The Missing Ones and disheartened that this first in a potentially great new series is a let-down. I will, however, give the next one a try, because I don't give up easily. I hope that the author gives Lottie Parker some redeeming qualities in the next book, and also tightens up the plot for a more suspenseful and interesting mystery.