I have taken great care in the last little while to be picky when it comes to choosing a book to read. After all, there are only 24 hours in a day, I only have 90 years to live, and there are too many books that exist for me to be sure to finish them all. Hence the triaging process.
I’m happy to report that this triaging process has yielded yet another great reading experience. Margaret Fenton’s Little Lamb Lost is a story about justice on a smaller yet just as important scale, as Claire Conover, a social worker, works on getting justice served for the murder of one of the children in her charge, adorable little two-year-old Michael.
His mother, 23-year-old Ashley, had been using drugs pretty heavily before, to the point that, after Claire was assigned her case, she had to remove then baby Michael from the house. Ashley, who loves her son dearly, decided to turn her fortunes around. This was, for Claire, the case that gave her hope, the case that kept her going in the midst of other less stellar situations – and, ultimately, the case that, shockingly, went horribly wrong.
Unable to let go, Claire launches her own investigation to figure out what went wrong. She cannot accept either Ashley’s ‘confession’ nor the police’s willingness to accept it without further digging.
While I love a good mystery, I prefer those with substance, and Little Lamb Lost delivers substance. Yes, we are wondering throughout who killed an innocent young boy and why the mother, clearly innocent, would admit guilt, but this sad story isn’t narrowed only to a whodunit. After all, drugs are not just about the actual smoking/shooting up, but rather a symptom of other, more severe problems, and these problems are visible throughout the plot.
Don’t worry, Margaret Fenton isn’t using Little Lamb Lost as a way to beat us over the head patronizingly in the hopes of increasing awareness. Rather, it’s an indirect consequence of a plot well written, that takes these factors into consideration without unnecessarily focusing on them. After all, Claire Conover has been working in her field for some time now, and she doesn’t need to be lectured (and neither do we).
In short, Little Lamb Lost is not your typical thriller, and this is what makes it all the more thrilling. What happened to Claire is something that could happen to anyone working in the same field. And Margaret Fenton should know – she has worked in a parallel field, child and family therapy, for most of her life.
For a debut novel, the writing is tight, flows well and the rhythm of the action is held throughout the entire book. There was no single moment where you can take a breather (so don’t drink coffee while reading this; you might dearly regret it). The plot is, scarily enough, pretty realistic and tight, with no loose ends. Only one small thing stuck out a little: Jimmy. He was just so odd, sticking out like a sore thumb. Then again, such people exist in real life, and at the end of the day, it didn’t ruin the story.
Don’t expect to be eased into the story; Margaret Fenton throws you right into it. And right from the beginning you are clutching the book tightly (mine has permanent grooves in the shape of my fingers etched forever in its cover). While I don’t want to ruin the story for you, let me tell you: justice is served, although tragically, since an innocent life is lost.
If you’re travelling during the Christmas holidays, Little Lamb Lost will definitely help you get through the sometimes dreadfully long waits and inevitable delays.
First published here on Blogcritics.