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Hughes, Declan - 'City of Lost Girls'
Hardback: 320 pages (May 2010) Publisher: John Murray ISBN: 1848540361

Unlike previous books featuring the private detective Ed Loy, violence is at a (comparable) minimum in this one. I found this a refreshing change, as it allows the plot and great story telling to take pride of place. Ed himself appears more settled, living with Anne (a character from an earlier book) and her 6 year-old daughter, rather than in his bachelor pad. Moreover, Ed doesn't get beaten up in this book, (as he has done on several occasions in earlier books). However, there is certainly a threat to his life, when his old enemy Podge, a gangster with a grudge, is let out of jail.

The main story in this book, however, concerns an old friend from Los Angeles, a film director called Jack Donovan. Jack has come to Dublin to make a film. Ed knew Jack well when he was working as a PI in Los Angeles, and even had a small part in a Jack Donovan film. Jack asks Ed to look into some anonymous letters he has received. In particular, he wants to know if his sister Marie has sent them, or his ex-wife, who is now living in Ireland, with his daughter, whom he has never seen. Then, on the film set, first one, and then a second extra from a trio of 'look-alike' girls, all of whom are key to certain scenes in the film, disappear. This puts the filming in jeopardy and gives Ed a second job to do, finding the extras, and trying to prevent anything from happening to the third. Where have the girls gone? Are they even still alive? And if not, who would want to kill them and why? Is this all related to a similar trio of murders that happened back in the US, to extras on another film made by Jack, together with his team (Maurice, Mark and Conor), that gave Ed one of his first cases as PI? Of course it is, because interspersed between the main story, is the 'story in italics' as told by the murderer, of how it all started, and how it became an obsession. The murderer has to be Jack, Maurice, Mark or Conor, but which one?

Ed's job is 'to elicit as much information as he possible can from whoever he is talking to and then get out fast so he can figure out what to do with that information'. He does this with real skill and intuition, particularly when it's clear that the person he is talking to is reluctant to reveal all (and he feels slightly embarrassed at having to ask in the first place). It's a relatively short, punchy story, where small pieces of information finally lead to the culprit and a tense, scary ending. Ed's internal dialogue is used skilfully in driving the plot forward, and his impressions and conversations with the main protagonists work well in providing a gradual insight into uncovering who is behind the murders (and letters). I enjoyed this book a great deal, and look forward to the next book featuring Ed Loy, PI.

Michelle Peckham, England
June 2010

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 13/06/2010 11:12