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    Review of LITTLE GIRL LOST by Susan Kelly


    Allison & Busby, 2002

    A little girl, Emilia, has vanished and the police are looking for her social worker. But the girl's family is also suspicious--her father has recently been released from a mental institution and her step-mother is nobody's idea of a kind and gentle soul. Or could Emilia's former foster parents have decided to reclaim the daughter they hoped to adopt for their own? English Police Superintendent Gregory Summers, together with assistant Barbara and new deputy Megan Davies must track down the evidence, all the while hoping that the little girl is only lost--that no one has killed a child.

    Author Susan Kelly writes convincingly of troubled families, and all of the families in LITTLE GIRL LOST are troubled indeed. Summers is having an affair with his ex-daughter-in-law, a woman twenty years his junior. Davies has recently separated from her husband and is now dealing with her father's increasing dementia. Step-mother Concepta worries that Roger married her only to satisfy the social workers that he could provide a secure home--and that she'll be left behind as well if Emilia is truly gone. Kelly's writing involves the reader in these troubled characters, making us care that their problems are resolved.

    In solving the mystery, Kelly relies far to heavily on coincidence. It seems that Summers or Davies need merely meet a minor character to be certain that that character will soon provide valuable clues. While the police do luck into evidence all of the time, it hardly makes for a compelling mystery when so much of the evidence shows up through stumbling around rather than through hard work. How likely is it, for example, that Davies's demented father just happen to wander through a field where a body was buried and that he be stopped by a crazed woman in that very field, just so the police could find the body? Unfortunately, LITTLE GIRL LOST is simply filled with this type of detecting--pulling the reader out of what is otherwise a very satisfying read.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 7/05/03

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