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City of Lost Girls    by Declan Hughes order for
City of Lost Girls
by Declan Hughes
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

City of Lost Girls is the first of Shamus Award winner Declan Hughes' lyrical mysteries that I've read. Now that I realize what I've been missing, I plan to dig out the earlier episodes in his superlative series starring Dublin private detective Ed Loy. As this episode opens, Ed is happily involved in a relationship with lovely Anne Fogarty, a divorced interior designer with two daughters, Aoife and Ciara.

Charismatic 'broth of a Paddy Irish boy' film director Jack Donovan, is back in Dublin shooting a new movie, along with his usual cohorts - producer Maurice Faye, director of photography Mark Cassidy, and first AD Conor Rowan. They and Jack have long been labeled the Gang of Four. Jack and Ed used to be close friends, but were estranged in another lifetime. Twenty years before, three young women (lookalike extras on a Donovan movie shot in California) disappeared and were never found. Now, an extra (one of a lookalike threesome) fails to show up for work on the Dublin set, and she was definitely not a party girl.

Readers see into the mind of the serial killer right at the beginning as he muses on his past choices and his interactions with women. But all we really know about him is that he drinks semisparkling Prosecco dei Colli Trevigiani, he's probably one of the Gang of Four, and he seeks grace 'from the dying eyes of a lost girl.' Jack initially hires Ed because of strange letters he's been receiving (which he suspects are from his older sister or his ex-wife or the PA with whom he's currently involved). But Ed's job soon expands into seeking and protecting lost girls.

Sound like enough to keep a PI on his toes? Hughes throws a tad more into the mix. Podge Halligan is about to be released from jail and it is only a matter of time before a singlemindedly vengeful Podge comes after Ed. Then the very cold case of the original trio of extras reopens after an anonymous tip leads LAPD police to their burial site in Malibu, California. Ed makes a brief trip back to LA to catch up on events there, and ends up with an important clue that sends him back to Dublin, racing against time to save a final trio of lost girls.

The front cover of this mystery quotes John Connolly as saying that 'Hughes is simply the best Irish crime novelist of his generation.' Read Hughes' lyrical and gripping City of Lost Girls and you'll find it impossible to disagree. The film business backdrop is fascinating while the spectacular, and most satisfying, ending will take your breath away - the novel would make a marvelous movie. Don't miss it.

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