The Lost Ones by Sheena Kamal - Nora Watts is deeply shaken. Sitting in a coffee shop, after responding to a 5:00 am desperate phone call, she is told by Everett and Lynn Walsh they have searched her out as they are looking for their runaway daughter, Bonnie, who was given up for adoption by Nora 15 years earlier. Bonnie had been obsessed over finding her biological parents.
Nora helps search for people. She is a receptionist, research assistant and lie detector. Her bosses, Leo and Seb, are a gay couple. Leo is a private investigator. Seb is a journalist and author,
Nora’s mind is in a turmoil:
She (Bonnie) still occupies a space in my consciousness. In all these
years, I’ve never allowed myself to think about just how much real estate
she actually owns there.
Unlike most fictional heroes Nora is not beautiful. She recognizes her appearance as a professional benefit during surveillance:
There is nothing more invisible than the middle aged woman ...
She may be ordinary in appearance but she has a “rich, husky contralto” voice and sang professionally over a decade earlier.
Nora is an alcoholic whose recovery has been aided by Whisper, a dog, who showed up outside her door on the gritty streets of East Hastings. They drift along on streets all over Vancouver through long nights.
As she starts searching for Bonnie she calls upon her former sponsor, a police detective, when she sought sobriety. She shames him into helping her by saying the police are not interested in searching for the missing girl because she is “not blond enough”. Nora’s paternal heritage is indigenous.
Nora has a horrific past that has left her perpetually wary. She flinches at a touch.
Guilt churns inside Nora as she thinks about Bonnie being unhappy enough to run away. Nora had thought giving up Bonnie for adoption would mean a better life for her daughter. She had turned away from holding her daughter after birth.
But why are members of a large security firm conducting surveillance on the Walsh’s?
At the same time Nora is searching for a missing witness in a murder case.
Bitterness has controlled her soul for so much of her life but she finally tries to connect with people on a personal basis.
Trusting no one, except Whisper, means Nora is dishonest with everyone including those who are trustworthy. She feels shame over her betrayals but cannot stop herself. And the lure of alcohol is constant for Nora.
Trying to stay sober is so hard:
An alcoholic cannot afford to be depressed if sobriety is still a goal. She cannot allow despair to gnaw at her self-control until it consumes her, until she no longer recognizes where she begins and the sickening feelings of doubt and shame end.
I admired Nora’s guile and resourcefulness. I regretted Kamal sending Nora through a series of scrapes and chases.
The search is for Bonnie is convoluted. For a time I thought it involved some vague conspiracy. I was wrong. The connections between the villains and Bonnie are all too plausible. She may have run away but staying away is not because she is a runaway.
The thread to the investigation frays on credibility at times as Nora is given entry twice based on mistaken assumptions of her status because of her appearance.
As common in Canadian crime fiction the weather and the vast spaces of our nation have roles in the plot.
Nora has a dyfunctional approach to life but her mind is quick and her problems never leave her unable to think. A woman who has survived foster homes, near death and addictions on a lone quest to find her missing daughter may be the most dangerous person on earth.
Kamal is unusual in crime fiction in being uncompromising with regard to Nora from the beginning to the end. I was impressed by The Lost Ones. I intend to read Ms. Kamal again.