What Was Lost: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

A tender and sharply observant debut novel about a missing young girl—winner of the Costa First Novel Award and long-listed for the Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, and The Guardian First Book Award

In the 1980s, Kate Meaney—“Top Secret” notebook and toy monkey in tow—is hard at work as a junior detective. Busy trailing “suspects” and carefully observing everything around her at the newly opened Green Oaks shopping mall, she forms an unlikely friendship with Adrian, the son of a ...

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What Was Lost: A Novel

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Overview

A tender and sharply observant debut novel about a missing young girl—winner of the Costa First Novel Award and long-listed for the Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, and The Guardian First Book Award

In the 1980s, Kate Meaney—“Top Secret” notebook and toy monkey in tow—is hard at work as a junior detective. Busy trailing “suspects” and carefully observing everything around her at the newly opened Green Oaks shopping mall, she forms an unlikely friendship with Adrian, the son of a local shopkeeper. But when this curious, independent-spirited young girl disappears, Adrian falls under suspicion and is hounded out of his home by the press.

Then, in 2003, Adrian’s sister Lisa—stuck in a dead-end relationship—is working as a manager at Your Music, a discount record store. Every day she tears her hair out at the outrageous behavior of her customers and colleagues. But along with a security guard, Kurt, she becomes entranced by the little girl glimpsed on the mall’s surveillance cameras. As their after-hours friendship intensifies, Lisa and Kurt investigate how these sightings might be connected to the unsettling history of Green Oaks itself. Written with warmth and wit, What Was Lost is a haunting debut from an incredible new talent.


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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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"Saturday, 1 September. Green Oaks: two hours outside the banks today. Nothing to note except short man walking about unaware of 4-foot length of toilet paper stuck to his shoe."

Kate Meaney, a precocious 10-year-old, is no ordinary sleuth. Notebook in hand, Kate is always on the lookout for suspicious characters and their dodgy doings. And when spunky little Kate disappears, suspicion is cast on an acquaintance of hers: 22-year-old Adrian Palmer. Though never officially charged, the shadow of doubt drives Adrian out of town, and the mystery of the missing Kate remains unsolved.

Twenty years later, Adrian's younger sister Lisa, who works at a music shop in a local mall, continues to receive the occasional missive from Adrian. And things continue apace until the image of a young girl appears on the mall's security camera. In short order, the weight of keeping secrets is too much to bear: Adrian returns to town, and a childhood friend of Kate's reveals a long-held clue to her last known hours.

Prepare to be tickled by Kate, but don't expect a wholesome detective story suitable for younger readers. For while the fate of the endearing Kate drives this tale, O'Flynn's narrative also exposes the dark underbelly of the British underclass. (Fall 2008 Selection)
Publishers Weekly

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)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

O'Flynn's debut begins with self-made detective and ten-year-old orphan Kate Meaney as she buses her way to the Green Oaks Shopping Mall, where she'll surveil the various customers who may want to commit crimes: "Crime was out there. Undetected, unseen." With notebook and stuffed monkey in tow, Kate spends her days when not in school either outside the mall looking to catch a thief or at a neighborhood store sharing her observations with the shop owner's son, 22-year-old Adrian Palmer. When Kate disappears one day, never to be seen again, suspicion falls on Adrian, and the two-decade-spanning, unsolved case wreaks destruction on the lives of those who had touched Kate's life in one way or another. This seamlessly written, character-driven novel offers up well-appreciated humor along with its darker material, and readers who enjoy sideswiping surprises will not be disappointed. Recommended for public libraries.
—Jyna Scheeren

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

Kirkus Reviews
This debut novel, nominated for the Man Booker Prize, is part mystery, part ghost story, and altogether wonderful. The story begins in O'Flynn's hometown, Birmingham, England, in 1984. The heroine is Kate Meaney, ten-year-old private eye. Kate's interest in detective work is rooted in a fondness for film noir she shares with her father. When he dies, her amateur sleuthing helps her remain connected to his memory. Kate is a shy, serious, singular child, and her only friends are eccentrics and outcasts. There's Adrian, the adult son of a local shopkeeper; Teresa, the girl who sets new standards for naughtiness when she transfers to Kate's school; and Mickey, the plush monkey who accompanies her on stakeouts at the local mall. Kate's grandmother-who becomes her guardian when her father dies-wants Kate to go to boarding school, but Kate has other ideas. The narrative shifts to 2003. The mall where Kate followed suspects is still there, but now the action revolves around Kurt, a security guard, and Lisa, an assistant manager at a record store. Neither is happy at work, but these dead-end jobs are just symptoms of a more general malaise and paralysis. Both Kurt and Lisa are immobilized by tragedy, and both become obsessed with a little girl Kurt sees on a security camera one night-a little girl with a plush monkey peeking out of her backpack. This is, ultimately, the story of Kate's disappearance and the people transformed by it. It's also a mordantly funny depiction of the contemporary retail workplace. And it's a romance. These pieces should not fit together, but they do. O'Flynn is able to capture a character or a scene with a few perfect details, and she seems to possess an uncanny,ennobling sympathy for her characters. Heartbreaking, hilarious and immensely rewarding. Agent: Lucy Luck/Rogers, Coleridge & White
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429941457
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/24/2008
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 360,318
  • File size: 311 KB

Meet the Author


Catherine O'Flynn's is the author of The News Where You Are and What Was Lost, which won the Costa First Novel Award in 2007, was short-listed for The Guardian First Book Award, and was long-listed for the Booker Prize and the Orange Prize. She lives in Birmingham, England.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Crime was out there. Undetected, unseen. She hoped she wouldn’t be too late. The bus driver was keeping the bus at a steady 15 mph, braking at every approaching green light until it turned red. She closed her eyes and continued the journey in her head as slowly as she could. She opened them, but still the bus lagged far behind her worst projection. Pedestrians overtook them; the driver whistled.

She looked at the other passengers and tried to deduce their activities for the day. Most were pensioners; she counted four instances of the same huge blue-checked shopping bag. She made a note of this occurrence in her pad; she knew better than to believe in coincidences.

She read the adverts on the bus. Most were seeking advertisers: If you’re reading this, then so could your customers. She wondered if any of the passengers ever took out advertising space on the bus, and what they would advertise if they did.

Come and enjoy my big blue-checked shopping bag; it is filled with cat food.

I will talk to anyone about anything. I also eat biscuits.

Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, officially recognized brewers of the world’s strongest tea. "We squeeze the bag."

I smell strange, but not unpleasantly.

Kate thought she would like to take out an advert for the agency. The image would be a silhouette of her and Mickey within the lens of a magnifying glass. Below, it would say:

Falcon Investigations

Clues found. Suspects trailed. Crimes detected.

Visit our office equipped with the latest surveillance equipment.

She made another note in her pad of the phone number on the advert, to be rung at some later date when the office was fully operational.

Eventually the bus reached the landscaped lawns and forlorn, fluttering flags of the light-industrial park that surrounded the newly opened Green Oaks Shopping Center. She paid particular attention to Unit 15 on the Langsdale Industrial Estate, where she had once witnessed what seemed to be an argument between two men. One man had a large mustache, the other wore sunglasses and no jacket on what had been a cold day; she’d thought they both looked of criminal character. After some deliberation and subsequent sightings of a large white van outside the unit, she had come to the conclusion that the two men were trafficking in diamonds. Today all was quiet at the unit.

She opened her pad at a page with Unit 15 Surveillance written at the top. Next to that day’s date she wrote, in the slightly jerky bus writing that dominated the page: No sighting. Collecting another shipment from Holland?

Fifteen minutes later, Kate was walking through the processed air of the Market Place of Green Oaks. Market Place wasn’t a marketplace. It was the subterranean part of the shopping center, next to the bus terminals, reserved for the inexpensive low-end stores: fancy goods, cheap chemists, fake perfume sellers, stinking butchers, flammable-clothes vendors. Their smells mingled with the smell of burnt dust from the over-door heaters and made her feel sick. This was as far as most of Kate’s fellow passengers ventured into the center. It was the closest approximation of the tatty old High Street, which had suffered a rapid decline since the center had opened. Now when the bus drove up the High Street, no one liked to look at the reproachful boarded-up doorways filled with fast-food debris and leaves.

She realized it was Wednesday and she’d forgotten to buy that week’s copy of the Beano from her usual newsagent. She had no choice but to go to the dingy kiosk in the center to get it. Afterward she stood and looked again at a current True Detective magazine on the shelf. The woman on the front didn’t look like a detective. She was wearing a fedora and a raincoat . . . but nothing else. She looked like someone from a Benny Hill sketch. Kate didn’t like it.

She rode the escalator up to the ground floor, where the proper shops, fountains, and plastic palms began. It was the school holidays, but too early to be busy. None of her classmates was allowed to go to the center without their parents. Sometimes she’d bump into a family group with one of her peers in tow and would exchange awkward greetings. She had picked up a sense that adults tended to be uncomfortable with her solo trips out and about, so now whenever questioned by shop assistant, security guard, or parent she would always imply that an unspecified adult relative was nearby in another store. Largely, though, no one questioned her; in fact, no one ever really seemed to see her at all. Sometimes Kate thought she was invisible.

It was 9:30 a.m. She retrieved her laboriously typewritten agenda from her back pocket:

9:30–10:45 Tandy: research walkie-talkies and microphones

10:45–12:00 General center surveillance

12:00–12:45 Lunch at Vanezi’s

12:45–1:30 Midland Educational: look at ink pads for fingerprinting

1:30–3:30 Surveillance near banks

3:30 Bus home

Kate hurried on to Tandy.

She was flustered to arrive at Vanezi’s restaurant a good twenty minutes past noon. This was not the way a professional operated. This was sloppy. She waited by the door to be seated, though she could see her table was still free. The usual lady took her to the usual place and Kate slid into the orange plastic booth, which offered a view out over the main atrium of the center.

"Do you need to see the menu today?" asked the waitress.

"No, thanks. Can I have the Children’s Special please with a banana float? And can I not have any cucumber on the beefburger, please?"

"It’s not cucumber, it’s gherkin, love."

Kate made a note of this in her pad: Gherkins/cucumbers— not same thing: research difference. She’d hate to blow her cover on a stateside mission with a stupid error like that.

Kate looked at the big plastic tomato-shaped ketchup dispenser on her table. It was one of her favorite things; it made total sense.

At school last term, Paul Roberts had read out his essay, "The Best Birthday Ever," which culminated in his grandparents and parents taking him out to Vanezi’s for dinner. He spoke of eating spaghetti with meatballs, which for some reason he and everyone else in the class had found funny. He was still excited as he rushed through his story of drinking ice-cream floats and ordering a Knickerbocker Glory. He said it was brilliant.

Kate couldn’t understand why he didn’t just go there himself on a Saturday lunchtime if he liked it so much. She could even take him the first time and tell him the best place to sit. She could show him the little panel on the wall that you could slide back to reveal all the dirty plates passing by on a conveyor belt. She could tell him how one day she hoped to place some kind of auto-shutter-action camera on the belt, which could travel around the entire restaurant taking surveillance shots unseen, before returning to Kate. She could point out the washing-up man who she thought might be murderous, and perhaps Paul could help her stake him out. She could maybe invite him to join the agency (if Mickey approved). But she didn’t say anything. She just wondered.

She glanced around to check that no one could see; then she reached into her bag and pulled out Mickey. She sat him next to her by the window, so the waitress wouldn’t notice, and where he had a good view of the people below. She was training Mickey up to be her partner in the agency. Generally Mickey just did surveillance work. He was small enough to be unobtrusive despite his rather outlandish getup. Kate liked Mickey’s outfit, even though it meant he didn’t blend in as well as he might. He wore a pin-striped gangster suit with spats. The spats slightly spoiled the Sam Spade effect, but Kate liked them anyway; in fact she wanted a pair herself.

Mickey had been made from a craft kit called Sew Your Own Charlie Chimp the Gangster, given to Kate by an auntie. Charlie had languished along with all of Kate’s other soft toys throughout most of her childhood, but when she’d started up the detective agency last year she thought he looked the part. The name Charlie Chimp was no good, though. Instead he became Mickey the Monkey. Kate would run through their agenda with him each morning, and he always traveled with her in the canvas army-surplus bag.

The waitress brought the order. Kate ate the burger and perused the first Beano of the new year, while Mickey kept a steady eye on some suspicious teenagers below.

Excerpted from What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn

Copyright © 2007 by Catherine O’Flynn

Published in 2008 by Henry Holt and Company, LLC

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Table of Contents

Contents

1984
Falcon Investigations

2003
Voices in the Static

1984
Staying in the City

2004
The Lookout
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 24 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(7)

4 Star

(5)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Not Too Bad, Slightly Twisted

    I was drawn to this book from the plot and I enjoyed the book, but it isn't one of my top books. The ending is crazy and twisted but very predictable from the beginning. I can see how they could of made the story a little better, but I can't say it was a bad book. I guess it was a little jumbled at points which was one of the main problems and felt like they wrote it too fast instead of taking more time to write a solid plot. Still, I enjoyed it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    jaunty and easy to read, but somewhat convoluted.

    the writing style and author's voice were what made the book very readable. however, the central tension in the book remained a bit hard to follow.

    in fact, if i hadn't read the back cover synopsis, i might have missed one aspect of a central character's part in the plot.

    i did enjoy the set-up and the menacing presence of the mall.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2009

    ...CAN BE FOUND HERE!

    This is a juicy delight filled with curious characters with hopes and fears.I have gotten into the habit of reading saturday morning 10 - noon.
    Well, I didn't want to put this one down not even when lunch arrived.Bob Marley's Three Little Birds playing in the background. A perfect afternoon! Saying don't worry about a thing...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 2, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Nope, didn't really like this one.

    I'd heard a lot about it, it won a Costa First Novel Award, but it just was NOT what I thought it would be and wasn't enjoyable either. This is another case of don't believe the cover blurb. this is not a mystery, this is not really about the girl who disappears, this is a character study of lonely, lost people. And boring. I finished it for two reasons: it was short and I really hoped to find out what happened on the day Kate Meaney disappeared. You do, in the very last chapter. Finally.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 4, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    I was thrilled

    This book surprised me in how it grabbed me. I had started it as an "in-between" book; I had just finished a different great book and didn't think I'd end up with two in row! The writing style required attention, but it wasn't difficult. I thought her characters were typical of the reality of being an adult -- she broached some tough subjects with unerring honesty. Life in the city is not always little black dresses and martinis. Books like "What Was Lost" help us to not feel so lost as we trudge through our days. It's nice to be reminded you're not alone and that in itself portrays the book's message of hope.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2008

    A reviewer

    This book was dull and disconnected. I forced myself to finish it in the hope ther was some revelation. A big waste of time!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2008

    Awful

    I was very disappointed in this book. I was under the impression it was going to be action packed and I wouldn't be able to put it down, well it was the opposite. It was dull and hard to follow. I forced myself to finish it, hoping it would get better. I was left disappointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2008

    wow..

    at first i wasn't sure about this book, i read a little and then put it down and stopped for a few weeks. i then picked it up, read quite a bit of it and got really into it. at times it was hard to follow, but i continued reading. i was glad i gave it another chance and finished it.. its a really amazing book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2008

    Our book group votes NO

    We just had our book group discussion tonight and the overwhelming, unanimous consensus was bad. We all thought it was dreadfully slow, depressing, disconnected and hard to follow. Most of us had a tough time forcing ourselves to finish it. If the author truly wrote this influenced by experiences in her life, she must have a very depressing life. It seemed to be a book about the futility of life, and how much more depressing can that be?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2008

    Could not put it down....

    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 dutiher little stuffed monkey. Until....she disappears. es with 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 see 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 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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2008

    hard to put down

    This book really captures the feeling of soul-crushing futility of people caught in dead-end jobs and who don't have the energy or courage to make a change until something happens to propel them out of their ruts. But that's not all of what the book is about-I read about the little girl who imagines herself a detective with a growing sense of dread. I was mesmerized by the interweaving of the people whose lives were affected by the missing girl, and how the girl's disappearance continues to affect them even twenty years later. I read this book at every opportunity, eager to see how it turned out, and was not disappointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2008

    A reviewer

    I finished this book in 3 days and although it's not very long, it keeps your interest throughout. You will not be disappointed.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A reviewer

    In 1984 in the Birmingham, England area, ten years old orphan Kate Meaney, accompanied by her sidekick a stitched stuffed monkey pretends to be a private investigator. The preadolescent especially keeps an eye out for criminal activity in Green Oaks shopping center near her home. When she is not sleuthing, Kate spends time at the sweetshop next door to her home discussing music with twenty-two tears old Adrian, the son of the owner. Her grandmother who raises Kate directs her to take an exam to gain entrance to a boarding school. Adrian takes her there, but no one sees Kate again. The police suspect Adrian of murder as they cannot comprehend a friendship between the tweener and the adult, but have no evidence to prove their case. However, the neighborhood condemns Adrian forcing him to move away.---------------- Two decades later on a CCTV monitor Green Oaks night shift security guard Kurt Jump notices a girl wandering seemingly lost holding a stuffed monkey. He rushes over to where he saw her, but no one is there. Not long after that Kurt mentions the girl with the monkey to Your Music store manager Lisa, Adrian¿s sister. They begin a search for the girl as Lisa hopes to solve the disappearance of Kate that destroyed her family especially her forced exiled brother.-------------------- WHAT WAS LOST is a superb thriller that uses a mall, especially what happens outside the shops, as a terrific backdrop to a fascinating mystery. In many ways Green Oaks is a major character as the audience learns its economic impact on a blue collar neighborhood in which factory workers are forced to accept shop jobs at extremely diminished income a subtle slap at the gurus who insist the economy is strong as everyone is working. The atmosphere of the non-shops is a part of the mall that is dark and gloomy at least through the surveillance cameras. With the mall playing a key role and Lisa and Kurt jumping into the cold case seeking the truth, the bottom line is fans will need to know the answer to the title question.------------ Harriet Klausner

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    Posted May 31, 2009

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    Posted November 1, 2010

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    Posted December 17, 2008

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