Writing the first novel of a series can be an especially difficult proposition. The author must not only tell a completely self-contained and interesting story but also introduce the protagonist(s) and supporting cast in such a way that the reader will want to join them again later for another adventure.
In Missing Daughter, Shattered Family, author Liz Strange (@LizStrangeVamp) has done both superbly, giving mystery fans a twisty, intricate plot as well as an interesting and complex protagonist in Toronto private investigator David Lloyd. There is definitely more of David’s story to be told after he wraps up the main storyline, which involves a missing persons case.
David is an ex-cop, having left the force years earlier after a brutal assault in an alley behind a bar left him unable to meet the police department’s physical requirements. That assault — more accurately a hate crime, as David is gay and the men who beat him are homophobic “peers” from the police — is the turning point in David’s life, and he exhibits all the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of it. The perpetrators of the beating, including David’s rival, go unpunished after a hurried investigation by the police, making the incident an open wound that David has mostly suppressed.
When David is hired by Marjory Barrowman to find her twenty-three year old daughter, Stella, he discovers how dangerous it can be to ignore those life-changing moments. Gone two months, Stella is a chronic drug user and sometime prostitute diagnosed with mental problems who has gone missing in the past. With her disreputable history, the police have not put much effort into finding Stella despite Marjory’s assertion that her daughter has never before stayed out of communication for such a lengthy period.
David takes the case, and what follows is a roller-coaster ride of clues, red herrings and plot twists leading up to some flat-out action scenes. There is honestly no way to go into more detail without spoilers; suffice to say David has his work cut out for him as he doggedly digs into a case which takes him from the seedy underside of Toronto to fashionable offices in the financial district.
While he’s searching for Stella, David has some issues on his own homefront to deal with, including a longtime partner who is still closeted at work and with his family. David came out years before, and had a difficult time with parts of his family as well as the assault from his fellow cops, so he has struggled in the past with how hard to push Jaime, his boyfriend. Their interplay, even under fire, is at times quite humorous and I also enjoyed the way David deftly employs his own good looks to shamelessly flirt with female contacts, most unaware of his status.
Missing Daughter, Shattered Family has everything a mystery fan could want: plot to spare and a winning lead character. I look forward to returning to Toronto for David’s next adventure, A Fresh Set of Eyes.
For more on Liz Strange, visit her website.