Oh wow - what an amazing little gem this book was! This was O'Flynn's debut novel. She's got a fan here that will be looking for her second.
The novel opens in 1984 and we meet nine year old Kate Meaney. She is a bit of a loner, preferring adults to children her own age. One of her favourite adults is Adrian, the son of a local shopkeeper. Kate is determined to be a detective. This is the driving force of her days. She carries a notebook and makes observations of all the people and situations she comes across. She has staked out both her neighbourhood and the new mall, Green Oaks. She decides to concentrate her time on Green Oaks. She shares her sleuthing duties with her little stuffed monkey. Until....she disappears.
O`Flynn's portrayal of this little girl is amazing. Her determination, earnestness, and curious mind are all vividly painted with words. I was somewhat reminded of Christopher - the main character in the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night. (Another really good read!)
Fast forward to 2003 at the Green Oaks Mall. It has expanded and is very large now. Kurt works as a security guard on the night shift. One night he inexplicably sees a young girl with a stuffed monkey on the security camera. When he searches, she is gone. Lisa, Adrian's sister works at a music store in the same mall. Working late one night, she gets lost in the staff only corridors and finds a stuffed monkey lodged down by a pipe.
Lisa and Kurt are both lonely and feel their lives are empty. They meet and their lives become connected by a long missing little girl. The development of the characters of Lisa and Kurt is excellent. As with Kate, you immediately feel a real sense of their lives.
Having worked in retail hell for many years, I found O'Flynn's descriptions of the mall, it's workers and customers to be spot on, very funny at times, but also very sad.
This book is as much about the mystery of what happened to Kate as it is about Karl and Lisa reclaiming their lives.
O'Flynn was listed for many prizes for this debut novel - and rightly so!