My thoughts ~ 4 stars
A local woman’s afternoon walk with her young son and dog turns nightmarish when their dog make a grisly discovery. The lab finds a badly decomposed body tangled in an oak branch washed up on the mud flats of the river Wye. So begins the eighth book for Superintendent John Lambert and Detective Sergeant Bert Hook.
GIRL GONE MISSING has no dangerous thrills, car chases, or overly dramatic denouements. The mystery of who killed Alison Watts is character, not action driven. And there are some interesting characters among the suspects.
Jason Bullimore, the attractive English teacher at Alison’s school. Jason has been cosseted all his life. He’s surprisingly clueless and out of his depth in many ways where daily living is concerned.
Barbara Bullimore, librarian and Jason’s protective, single older sister. A formidable woman per Hook.
Thomas Murray MA, FRSA, Headmaster at Oldford Comprehensive, Alison’s school. Bit of a pretentious twit.
Robert Watts, Alison’s stepfather is the personification of that conundrum that draws and keeps women with abusive men.
Jamie Allen, Alison’s boyfriend. Sweet, intelligent, naive, and vulnerable.
Mrs. Allen, Jamie’s mother. Protective of the son she loves and keeps on a tight rein. A bit overbearing and afraid to loosen the strings.
Finally, the victim herself, eighteen year old Alison Watts. I didn’t find Alison to be an especially sympathetic character or victim nor did I like her. The arrogance of youth is one thing but Alison took it to an extreme.
Everyone has a secret or something to hide.
The differing perspectives of Lambert and Hook via their interactions with other characters create truly multi-dimensional leads. In particular the view of Detective Inspector Christopher Rushton says a lot about Lambert and Hook, as well as Rushton himself. Rushton is described as “prissy” and that is certainly fitting. Rushton was, for me, the comic relief. Perhaps the most revealing glimpse of Lambert comes from his wife, Christine.
It’s evident from the get go that Superintendent John Lambert and Detective Sergeant Bert Hook are well established in their relationship. However, at no time did I feel lost or that I was missing vital details or information regarding the characters. There are intriguing references to past events that piqued my curiosity, such as why Hook turned down promotion, but this only makes me want to read the backlist. My only bewilderment involves the English school system and golf. I floundered when the intricacies of the education system were discussed and Lambert and Hook were golfing. It wasn’t too bad though and the golfing scenes do facilitate character understanding and add levity.
GIRL GONE MISSING doesn’t bring facts, suspects, and details out of left field to create a solution readers would have never been able to suss out. If you pay close attention the solution is right before your eyes. That’s the draw with this type of mystery. They may not involve a lot of action but they require mental acuity if you want to solve the mystery or conversely you can just go along for the ride. Either way GIRL GONE MISSING is a solid, satisfying, terribly English police procedural. One of my favorite kinds. As soon as I have two minutes to rub together I’ll be searching out Mr. Gregson’s Lambert & Hook backlist.