Nearly a year and a half ago, I attended Bouchercon in Toronto and returned with a suitcase full of books. I’m hoping that by the end of 2019, I’ll have have finished reading the stack. Sheena Kamal’s The Lost Ones is one of those books.
Private Investigator Nora Watts is approached by a couple who need her help in locating their missing daughter, Bonnie. The problem? Their daughter is the child that Nora had been forced to give up for adoption many years ago. Can Nora track down Bonnie and return her safe and sound to her parents?
Nora Watts has more issues than a magazine stand, which I guess makes her a perfect detective? So why didn’t this one captivate me? I think it was because Nora seemed more like a mystery novel trope than anything unique. I don’t want to belittle her struggles because she goes through some absolutely horrific shit, but you can’t just blanket someone with tragedy and expect it to be enough. Granted, she isn’t another gruff white dude finding solace in the bottom of a bottle, so at least there’s that. But it doesn’t change the fact that here we are with another recovering alcoholic loner with a penchant for spouting sarcastic and mean-spirited nonsense.
Seeing as the mystery genre is overflowing with that type of character, it can help if you produce a memorable, balls-to-the-wall plot. Unfortunately, the plot was just.. OK? Although the hook was clever and there were enough twists and turns to keep me reading, it just didn’t do anything for me in the end. While there were some quotable moments, they’re few and far between so the journey felt like a total slog most of the time.
What the book does effectively is spotlight Canada’s brutal history of mistreatment of indigenous peoples, most notably at-risk female youth. Nora is a mixed-race citizen who experienced unimaginable hardship growing up, so her story is an important one. In the last few years, I’ve been making an effort to read more widely; choosing books written by underrepresented men and women that tell stories about visible minorities. This isn’t me patting myself on the back here – I just don’t want it to sound like I’m dismissing something just because it’s outside of my comfort zone.
I guess given the heaps and heaps of praise on this one from folks on Goodreads and the critical community, I expected a lot more. I got lost on more than one occasion while making my way through the story and that alone subtracts points from the score.