Book Review, Fiction, Review

Book Review: ‘A Child Lost’, by Michelle Cox

5.00 avg. rating (99% score) - 1 vote

About the Author, Michelle Cox:

Michelle Cox A Child LostMichelle Cox is the author of the multiple award-winning Henrietta and Inspector Howard series as well as “Novel Notes of Local Lore,” a weekly blog dedicated to Chicago’s forgotten residents.  She suspects she may have once lived in the 1930s and, having yet to discover a handy time machine lying around, has resorted to writing about the era as a way of getting herself back there.  Coincidentally, her books have been praised by Kirkus, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Booklist and many others, so she might be on to something.  Unbeknownst to most, Michelle hoards board games she doesn’t have time to play and is, not surprisingly, addicted to period dramas and big band music.  Also marmalade.

About the Book, ‘A Child Lost’:

A spiritualist, an insane asylum, a lost little girl . . .

When Clive, anxious to distract a depressed Henrietta, begs Sergeant Frank Davis for a case, he is assigned to investigating a seemingly boring affair: a spiritualist woman operating in an abandoned schoolhouse on the edge of town who is suspected of robbing people of their valuables. What begins as an open and shut case becomes more complicated, however, when Henrietta—much to Clive’s dismay—begins to believe the spiritualist’s strange ramblings.

Meanwhile, Elsie begs Clive and Henrietta to help her and the object of her budding love, Gunther, locate the whereabouts of one Liesel Klinkhammer, the German woman Gunther has traveled to America to find and the mother of the little girl, Anna, whom he has brought along with him. The search leads them to Dunning Asylum, where they discover some terrible truths about Liesel. When the child, Anna, is herself mistakenly admitted to the asylum after an epileptic fit, Clive and Henrietta return to Dunning to retrieve her. This time, however, Henrietta begins to suspect that something darker may be happening. When Clive doesn’t believe her, she decides to take matters into her own hands . . . with horrifying results.

Review of ‘A Child Lost’, by Michelle Cox

Cox’ writing is complex, intriguing, and what I think of as “thick”—a lot packed into careful crafted sentences that give a lot of information without being obvious about it.  The mood and setting are natural set with seemingly little effort, making this a very satisfying read for fans of mysteries, historical or otherwise.

It was a bit difficult emotionally to read at this time during the COVID-19 pandemic; the suffering of the child at the centre of one of the subplots made me about the children suffering from the effects of the pandemic.  This is a reflection of how poignant Anna’s situation is portrayed; I was worried about her more than anything else in this book.

While it is the fifth book in the Henrietta and Inspector Howard series, A Child Lost works well as a standalone.  I have read the first four books in the series, but I was able to follow along, for the most part.  I did feel at times I might be missing something; however, I didn’t feel like it took much from the book; it actually did more to whet my appetite.  I also found myself caring more for Elsie, Gunther, and Anna than for Henrietta and Clive…  Oops?

As a feminist, I always appreciate a story about strong women; this one not only features two strong women, but their strength comes in sharp contract with the times the story is set in.  The 1930s were really not kind to women, were they.

I really appreciated the matter-of-fact treatment of several issues that, although approached in the context of the 1930s, are still just as important today: mental health (including depression), women’s health (miscarriage), and domestic abuse in all its terrible sensitivities.  But it really was Anna’s story that got me hooked; throughout the almost 400-page book, I just wanted to make sure she was OK.

A Child Lost is well worth the read, and although I haven’t read the other books in the series, I have a feeling reading it in order might be even more satisfying than reading just this one.

5.00 avg. rating (99% score) - 1 vote

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