11 January 2008

Missing Children

I am currently reading THE PURE IN HEART by Susan Hill. #2 in the Simon Serrailler series. The first real case in the book is the apparent kidnapping of a 9 year old boy as he stands on the footpath outside his home waiting for his ride to school.
And as Serrailler's assistant Detective Sergeant Nathan Coates thinks..
What can it be like to go out one morning and everything's hunky-dory, and at the end of the day, wham, your kid's gone, just... gone? Jesus.

Lying in bed last night, I started thinking about books that I've read that tackled this theme. A mental trawl of my database brought up these..

INVOLUNTARY WITNESS by Gianrico Carofiglio
Not an optimistic one because the boy is found dead and so the book is about the attempt to lay the blame.
A Senegalese peddlar working on the beaches of Bari in southern Italy has been accused of the murder of a young boy, whose body was found down a well 12 kilometers away. Guido Guerrieri, Counsel for the Defence, originally advises the accused to opt for a "short trial", a method in which the accused basically pleads guilty and gets a reduced sentence because of that. But the accused says he is not guilty and although he thinks the case is hopeless Guido also believes him. This novel is an Italian prize winner, translated into English. It is Carofiglio's debut novel, won a number of literary awards, and also already become the basis for an Italian TV series. Very different view of Italian justice system to Donna Leon. But then Bari is not Venice.

Then of course IN THE WOODS by Tana French
Three 12 years olds are playing in the woods at Knocknaree and then there is one. The other two vanish and the remaining child Adam Ryan is in a catatonic state and remembers nothing. Life goes on but the two children are never found and Adam Ryan becomes detective Rob Ryan. Twenty years on the woods are to be demolished to make way for a motorway. When protesters assert that the woods are of archaelogical significance they are given time to excavate and to retrieve anything of value. Then the body of a young girl is found near the excavation site, and Rob Ryan is part of the team assigned the case. He knows he should declare his conflict of interest but he doesn't. Gradually as the investigation develops the layers of his memory onion peel back and he gets closer to the truth. A strong debut novel that tackles an idea others have tackled before

BLACK SECONDS by Karin Fossum
Helga Joner has often thought that her nine year old daughter Ida is too good to be true, too good to last. The disappearance of a child is every parent’s worst nightmare. When Ida fails to arrive home from the shop, Helga feels she had been rehearsing the moment for years. First Helga and her sister Ruth scour the streets where they might find Ida, without success, and then they ring the police. Helga feels that somehow she has tempted fate, setting off an inevitable chain of events.
When Inspector Konrad Sejer arrives at her house, Helga feels instinctively that he will find Ida. As time passes Sejer becomes concerned that no trace has been found of Ida or the bright yellow bicycle she rode to the shop. One hundred and fifty volunteers search for Ida without success. Eight days later there are still no clues, the search is to be scaled down, and a chance comment by Helga to Sejer gives them something new to work on.

from a couple of years back in my reading
NO TRACE by Barry Maitland
In this work Maitland turns his focus on an artistic community where one of the leading artists, Gabriel Rudd, has won England’s most controversial art awards, the Turner Prize, with a painting he completed after the death of his wife. Now his daughter has disappeared, and two other young girls have also gone missing at the same time. Rudd begins to work on an art installation based on the grief he is experiencing for his lost daughter Tracey.

and ON BEULAH HEIGHT by Reginald Hill
Andy Dalziel's worst case was when 3 little girls went missing at Dendale, a small community where a dam was being built. They were never found and Benny Lightfoot, the man suspected of their disappearance, disappeared without trace too. The valley was flooded and the crime was never solved. Most of the families moved into a neighbouring valley, and now, 15 years on, another little girl has gone missing. But little Betsy Lightfoot had survived 15 years ago, and now she has come back to the area. She was 7 years old when Dendale was drowned. And it seems too that Benny is back.


Peter Rozovsky said...

Not quite paradise in this set of mysteries, is it? I wonder when the current spate of crime novels about missing and abused chilren began. And I wonder that the next big subject will be for crime writers.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Kerrie said...

One of the books I was trying to think of earlier was THE MURDER ARTIS t by John Case. publ 2004
Twin six year olds are kidnapped from an amusement park while on an access visit with their father. Every parent's nightmare. Alex Callahan is a television journalist, a foreign correspondent and he can't be sure that the disappearance of his sons at the Renaissance Faire is not connected to something he has be involved in through his work. As the days pass, the police search is scaled down, the original detective is taken off the case, and Alex decides to use his investigative powers to find his children. An engrossing read.
It got a bit unlikely in the final stages.
NO TRACE (Barry Maitland) was also published in 2004

Kerrie said...

and ON BEULAH HEIGHT (Reginald Hill) was 1998. Wasn't that the one in which Rosie nearly died too? She was nearly snatched by some ghouly that in myths lived on Beulah Height. Pascoe sat at her bedside read a book to her that helped her come out of a coma she went into after she got meningitis. Or have I got the wrong book?
So I guess my point is that the theme is not so modern.

Maxine Clarke said...

I loved the Carofiglio, French and Fossum that you refer to here, by the way. I had slightly gone off the D and P books by the time I got to On Beulah Height.

I think some of Karin Fossum's earlier books dealt with similar themes, also. Then there is Dennis Lehane's Gone Baby Gone, which is not a new book but has recently been made into a film -- unfortunately blocked from UK release because of the Madeline McCann case (itself apparently now being optioned for a movie).

The most harrowing book on this theme that I've read is A Child in Time by Ian McEwan, which must be 20 years old now. Awful. (but brilliant)

There must be many others but my failing brain can't call any to mind just now. But I don't think the subject appealed to Agatha Christie.

Kerrie said...

Interview with Tana French (IN THE WOODS)
At the end there are some interesting discussion questions

Maxine Clarke said...

This discussion is part of the Times reading group, it is an interesting discussion. I posted about it a couple of weeks ago, as I enjoyed this book, which has featured quite a bit on Crime Always Pays also (in fact I got my copy via one of Declan's competitions there, come to think of it). My memory is so bad that although I've read the book recently, I had completely forgotten about it in the face of the question in this post!


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