Michael Robotham, Lost (2006)

Perhaps it’s the wrong timing for the wrong person. But I felt strangely indifferent of Michael Robotham’s thriller “Lost”. And it’s not a good sign when a thriller, of all things, leaves you cold. Not all the time of course, otherwise I’d have dropped it, but at times, I wondered: what am I doing here? Shouldn’t I be reading something else? Then the plot stumbled on one of those clever tricks to keep me in, and I shrugged: Well at least I’d give it another go, and this way I reached the end, but unconcerned.

The hook is powerful indeed: a seasoned inspector is found in the river Thames, shot and nearly drowned. The opening scene is well written: it makes you gasp and gives you the shot of adrenalin that’s expected with the genre. The inspector spends days in hospital between life and death, and when he finally get through, he doesn’t remember what happened. At all. All he knows is that it was nasty, because his colleagues don’t speak to him. He has internal affairs investigate his case and suspend him because he has taken this case alone and he is suspected of having shot people and stolen diamonds. But he’s not a bad guy—he’s just a guy obsessed with a case of a little girl who disappeared 3 years ago. He found a sexual offender nearby and this guy has been convicted, but deep inside, the inspector still doubts. Something apparently  made him believe that the little girl is still alive. So he needs to retrace his steps to regain his memory.

I’ve just given you the basic lines and it sort of is obvious that there are lots of déjà vu in this. The amnesia trick made me sigh. How convenient. The nasty sexual offender. Sigh again. The obsessed detective ready to jeopardize everything and step outside the legal lines for a case. Sigh. The really annoying bit was the need to give to the detective a tortured past, a traumatic familial history. So the writer makes him the son of a Gipsy young girl who has been raped by Germans during WWII and who has pretended to be a Jew in order to emigrate to Great Britain. Come on! Why link WWII to any plot? There are a lot of other traumatic events in life, for G sake! Can’t you guys just find something else?

OK, end of the rant. It was not all lost though, since I finished the book. Robotham came with strong recommendations from Danielle, for its realism and its social commentary on the dark underbelly of contemporary society. Just thinking that it was written before the recession, how dark and cynical it would be now! I totally agree with Danielle—I’ve got to give him credit for that. I liked the sobering portrait of British society (not really sponsored by the Board of Tourism), and the investigation makes us visit the London sewage network, that looks fascinating on paper (no image and no smell… I’m not craving for 3D realism on this part!). And one of the secondary characters I loved best in this book, the Sikh female detective Ali Barba, became the main character in the thriller Danielle read, The Night Ferry.

PS. Dear Mr. Robotham, I’m sorry about my previous rant. It’s not entirely your fault. Just that I happened to start Marguerite Duras’ book on WWII while I read yours. Her rage and pain at the real-life personal events make any fiction pale in comparison.

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2 thoughts on “Michael Robotham, Lost (2006)

  1. I always hate it when this happens–I steer someone towards and author and then they don’t click. Maybe The Night Ferry was just better done? Ali Barba takes center stage in the novel I read. If nothing else it is an interesting perspective on a side of British society tourists rarely see.

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