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by Sarah Stewart Taylor
Minotaur, June 2023
352 pages
ISBN: 1250826683

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In Taylor's new novel, readers learn all the details of searching for a kidnapped child and solving a murder of a young and beautiful woman in Dublin. A STOLEN CHILD emphasizes the procedure in police procedural, but this reviewer finds that, as she turns the last page, something is missing, although she knows whodunit.

Dramatis personae: Jade's Family: Laurel Maguire, a missing two-year old child; Dylan Maguire, Laurel's father, designs web sites; Jade Elliot, Laurel's mother, a fashion model, a brief fling for Dylan, and a strangled victim; Nicola Elliot, Jade's sister, jealous of Jade's brief independent career; Eileen Elliot, Jade and Nicola's mother and a compulsive spender; Maggie's Family: Maggie D'Arcy, Irish Garda from the States; Conor, her significnt other; Lilly, Maggie's daughter; Adrien, Conor's son; Det. Padraig Fiero, Maggie's sometime Garda partner who seems to have a chip on his shoulder; Det. Roly Byrne, Maggie's boss; disaffected street kids smoking in vacant lots; neighbors who saw nothing, heard nothing; garda and detectives.

There are red herrings a-plenty here. Isn't it always the husband or father who commits family crimes? Jason Maguire is in Lyons, France and has a perfect alibi. Jade's sister is jealous of Jade's comparative youth, beauty, and freedom. Jade's mother thirsts after money to band-aid her hard-scrabble life. Could they have colluded? There is also a lurking, pimply young man of whom it is said he sells drugs...

Ultimately, Maggie D'Arcy uses intuition to discover what happened to the little girl and her mother. Intuition is a powerful force, the "aha!" that gives life its spice. Intuition, however, is not magic. Instead, one has practiced something so much, that the mind may use the shortcuts at its disposal to navigate to answers, all in the blink of an eye. Intuition feels like the dawn, like a sudden scent of perfume, like a cool breeze that releases one from the heat of a hot day; because of these things, intuition used as a plot device seems like it would make for great literature. Unfortunately, it does not.

Like the waft of perfume, intuition needs to be dabbed sparingly on a book's pages. Otherwise, it looks as if the author somehow forgot that readers need all the backstory so that we can intuit and have the fun that intuition confers. For those of us not in Dublin, that means we need to be able to form an idea of the whole society in which heroes and villains move. For those of us not part of a police force, that means telling us, not all the steps, including when and how people sneeze but telling us what propels each character. Then we will understand why D'Arcy wanted to be a police officer and why Dublin. We might see why Padraig Fiero seems to be angry all the time. We are given some background, but most of the book is stepwise description.

I remember the adage to show, not to tell.

Cathy Downs, Prof. Emerita at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, keeps a garden, designs quilts, and enjoys good books of the mysterious sort.

Reviewed by Cathy Downs, June 2023

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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