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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)
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.
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.
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
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
"Skewers our consumer society in all its absurdity and terrible sadness, while deftly interweaving a tender and heartbreaking personal narrative. A great debut novel from an awesomely talented writer."
"An exceptional, polyphonic novel of urban disaffection, written with humour and pathos. Kate’s deceptively jaunty diary reveals a consumer-driven society choking on its own loneliness; a ghost story; and an examination of unspeakable loss."
"An enthralling tale of a little girl lost, wrapped in a portrait of a changing community over two decades. What binds it all together so impressively is O’Flynn’s emotional articulacy, which captures life’s sad, strange absurdities and glosses them with a kind of nobility."