Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Lost Girl by Robert Barnard

The latest Ellery Queen has another Robert Barnard story. He publishes there with great regularity, and I've read several of his stories over the years, but they all affect me the same way - in short, I don't like them.

If you don't know, Robert Barnard has won a slew of awards over the decades, and he has the respect of the mystery reading/writing world. He has my respect as well. His prose is impeccable. He can make you care for the characters he puts before you. What he hasn't been able to do, especially with the short stories but even with the one novel of his I've read, is give me a satisfying ending. In one story, a character presented with a dilemma chooses the path no one I have ever encountered in my life would have chosen. In other stories, the ending just fizzles. So with this story.

The story (which is only about five or six pages) starts off well - a teenaged girl is missing, she might have crossed paths with a pedophile, and the Inspector follows leads and questions witnesses. In every way, the story is set up perfectly, and I truly expected to finally like a Barnard story at long last. Then came the ending. Fizzle. In faact, it took me three readings just to figure out what it is I think went on at the end. But once I figured things out (I think) I found as many loose ends as there were tied up ones.


Notice the SPOILER sign? Your last chance to turn back.

Okay. You asked for it.

The lost girl is, as far as I can tell, still lost at the end of the story. And the pedophile ist kaput. Presumably she killed him. Was she related to him? Not sure. If she killed him, what, precisely was her reason? No idea.

Oh well. The prose is nice.

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