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What Was Lost: A Novel Paperback – June 24, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Stirring and beautifully crafted, this debut novel recounts how the repercussions of a girl's disappearance can last for decades. In 1984, Kate Meaney is a 10-year-old loner who solves imaginary mysteries and guesses the dark secrets of the shoppers she observes at the Green Oaks mall. Kate's unlikely circle includes her always-present stuffed monkey; 22-year-old Adrian, who works at the candy shop next door; and Kate's classmate, Teresa Stanton, who hides her intelligence behind disruptive behavior. Kate's grandmother has plans for Kate: send her to boarding school. But Kate doesn't want to go. Fast forward to 2003, where it's revealed through Lisa, Adrian's sister, that Kate disappeared nearly 20 years ago, and Adrian, blamed in her disappearance, also vanished. Lisa works at a record store in Green Oaks and is drawn to Kurt, a security guard whose surveillance-camera sightings of a little girl clutching a stuffed monkey hint that he might have ties to Kate's disappearance. Teresa, meanwhile, now a detective, has her own reasons for being haunted by Kate's disappearance. Gripping to the end, the book is both a chilling mystery and a poignant examination of the effects of loss and loneliness. (July)
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From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—In 1984, Birmingham, England, is home to Kate Meaney, 10 years old, bright, self-possessed, and so obsessively engaged in the art of detection that she puts Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet to shame. Twenty years later, Kate is just a memory in a very few people's minds—and an obsession to a security guard at a Birmingham "shopping and leisure center." A peer but a stranger to Kate, he knows he saw her the day she disappeared, but, a child himself at the time, he hadn't reported his sighting. Now he sees her on the security cameras in the mall, and his new friend who works at the music store—and who has her own past with Kate—finds the little girl's toy monkey in the employees-only area of the complex. O'Flynn has created an ensemble cast of fully developed and engaging characters—children, adults, and adolescents—and placed them in a plot that twists and turns more than the underground and locked stretches of the mall. And she creates sentences and verbal images that are both finely honed and flawlessly flowing. This is a book with high appeal to mystery and suspense fans, and also to anyone who appreciates fine writing or mesmerizing storytelling.—Francisca Goldsmith, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; First Edition edition (June 24, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805088334
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805088335
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #518,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
O'Flynn's seemingly effortless novel has a cumulative effect, a simple tale of people drifting through life with no center and scarce ambition. At the heart of all is young Kate Meaney, a self-styled private detective who spends her days tracking the activities of imagined suspects. In the UK in 1984, ten-year-old Kate blends in with the crowd, a stuffed toy in suit and spats, Mickey the Monkey, her constant companion. Terribly lonely since the death of her beloved father, Kate has fashioned an imaginary life, complete with detailed notebook and identity kit. Her only friend, Adrian, a young man of 22, works in his father's shop and enjoys Kate's vivid imagination as she describes "the Gentleman Embezzler, the Henchman and the Ruthless Assassin". Her favorite haunt is Green Oaks, the local mall, hub for employment, shopping and a temporary reprieve from boredom. Then one day, Kate goes missing, Adrian the last person to see her.

In 2003, Adrian's sister, Lisa, plods daily to a tedious job at Your Music in Green Oaks. Like other employees, Lisa is restricted to the dark warrens of employee access, far from the more attractive mall facilities created for customers. One of many who navigate these halls, Lisa is trapped in a dead end job, living with a man she no longer cares for, waiting patiently each year for the music CD that arrives from Adrian, their only connection since he ran away after Kate's disappearance. Kurt, a night shift security guard, is an equally lost soul, a loner who vaguely yearns for a life beyond his acute personal loss.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Reader from Singapore on June 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
Reading Catherine O'Flynn's debut novel "What Was Lost (WWL)" was a like a breath of fresh air coming after all those much lauded but grossly disappointing titles like last year's Booker prize winner. O'Flynn may be new to the game but she understands the essentials of good writing and what it takes to captivate and hold the reader's attention.

To me, WWL isn't so much a social commentary on the absurdity of consumerism as some have suggested, as it is about the sense of alienation and crushing loneliness afflicting individuals living in our modern age. From little Kate Meaney who lives in her make-believe world of detectives and potential victims, where she sleuths away all day with the help of her pet monkey Mickey, hence unwittingly becoming the subject of the mystery at the heart of the novel, to record store deputy manager Lisa who is stuck in an unsatisfactory relationship with that useless colleague-boyfriend of hers, to the lonely night shift security guard Kurt who nurses a secret and passes his hours gazing into that surveillance monitor of his at Green Oaks shopping mall, etc, etc.

Little Kate's mysterious disappearance all those years ago, her pet monkey Mickey's strange but timely re-emergence in the mall corridor one day, the secrets of the protagonist cast and related characters as they are gradually revealed, and the presence of ghostly ruminations by several anonymous persons after hours at the mall, all add convincingly to the spook factor that turns this quite wonderful and difficult to categorise book into a serious page turner as one works through its final pages.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By sb-lynn TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 10, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I turned the final page of this book, I thought about how much I liked the story. Saying that, I am giving this 4 stars because I thought there were parts (the middle!) that were a slow-go for me.

Summary, no spoilers:

The book starts out in 1984, and we follow the escapades of 10 year old Kate Meaney. She is a precocious, imaginative, but lonely little girl, who decides that she wants to open up a detective agency with a partner - her toy stuffed animal, a monkey named Mickey. Her only real friends are a rebellious schoolmate, and a young man named Adrian, who lives next door.

Kate decides the best place to scope out the criminals is the local mall, Green Oaks. She spends most of her free time there, trying to spy on the would-be robbers and criminals, copiously taking notes.

The next section of book takes place in 2003, and we know that Kate had disappeared without a trace back in 1984. We learn about the repercussions from that, and we are introduced to Lisa, Adrian's sister who works at the Green Oaks Mall's music store, and Kurt, the security guard there.

I thought the first section of this novel was absolutely riveting, and I just loved Kate. When I got to the second section, I just couldn't get as interested in Lisa and Kurt, and I found myself wanting to hurry on to find out what happened to Kate. I found this whole part of the novel a slow read.

But for that, I would've given this book 5 stars, because the denouement is just fantastic, and poignant. When I was done with the book, I was happy I had read it, and I was very satisfied with the story.

Recommended, and if you find yourself slowing down mid-book, hang in there. There's a big payoff at the end.
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