The Lost Girls by Allison Brennan is the 11th book in the Lucy Kincaid series, where two missing girls and an abandoned baby lead to a seedy underworld of human trafficking.
In a small Texas town, a recently—and reluctantly—retired priest discovers a baby beneath a statue of St. Elizabeth on the grounds of Our Lady of Sorrows Church. The infant is no more than a day old, and already her very existence points toward something dark and ugly. For she is wrapped in a bloody shirt on which the message “Trust no one” has been scrawled in blood, and Siobhan Walsh—a crusading photojournalist looking for two young women with the help of Father Sebastian—is convinced the baby’s mother is one of the “lost girls.” She knows that the baby’s mother would not have abandoned her child except in the direst circumstance, and her efforts to find out what might have happened leads her to a jail cell in a little Texas town between San Antonio and Laredo.
And that’s where FBI agents Noah Armstrong and Lucy Kincaid come in. Lucy’s engaged to the brother of the man Siobhan relies on to help keep her safe, a security specialist named Kane Rogan, who is always advising her not to get involved in “causes.” Siobhan doesn’t want to face her attraction to Kane—it’s complicated—and Lucy completely understands. When she thinks about being with Sean Rogan, when she just utters the word “husband” aloud, it fills her with anxiety and ambivalence.
Lucy and Siobhan have something in common besides the fear of commitment, though. Both are women who act first and ask questions later, and both have paid the consequences for those actions.
She’d made mistakes—at least in the eyes of others. And on the nights she couldn’t sleep, she considered other ways she might have been able to do things. There were always options. But in the end, she had to accept that she’d broken rules—and perhaps, made mistakes—because someone was in trouble. She couldn’t sit back and watch a tragedy happen if she could stop it, even if that meant bending—or breaking—the rules.
It had taken her a long time to get to this point. She believed in the system, she believed in justice. But what happened when the system and justice didn’t align? Which was more important? The system that upheld justice but sometimes faltered or the idea that justice could always be obtained, though sometimes at a price?
That’s Lucy musing on her failures, but it could just as easily be Siobhan. When she comes across a lead she thinks might get her closer to solving the mystery of what happened to Ana and Marisol, a pair of sisters from a remote village in Guatemala, she’s not about to question the morality of a little breaking and entering.
She is convinced that her friends have been caught up in a sex trafficking scheme, and it frustrates her that, at first, Lucy and Noah don’t seem to understand the urgency of her mission to free them—and any other young women at risk. But as she joins forces with the two Feds to follow the flimsy clues they have, Noah and Lucy are dogged in their pursuit of answers.
Lucy cut him off. “You are as much of a hypocrite as the people you skewer in the press. We are trying to find not only Marisol and Ana de la Rosa, but also an at-risk pregnant woman who was chained to a bed so she couldn’t escape. We know one or both of the sisters was in Freer last week, and you told Siobhan that they were in Del Rio over eight months ago. You have photos of everyone who came in and out of that brothel for weeks. If the girls are still in the area, they are in danger. I want the pictures and I want your notes, now.”
Barrow opened his mouth, then closed it. He finally said, “Look—”
“No excuses. Either you’re one of us or you’re one of them. There is no middle ground in this war. Those girls are being trafficked, abused, tortured. They trust no one because they were likely abducted in another country and taken far from their homes, their families. Statistics say that they will be dead before they’re thirty, and if you don’t share what you know, you’re as much responsible for their deaths as the bastards who took them.”
The Lost Girls is the eleventh book in Allison Brennan’s Lucy Kincaid series, and the author hasn’t lost a step or started to rely on formula. She has a style—the story is told from multiple points of view, and that gives the tale an intimacy that increases our engagement—but the formula hasn’t hardened into “formulaic,” and she is meticulous in building the worlds of her story with details that feel authentic and real. Not only that, but by the time we find out who gave birth to the abandoned baby, what’s going on with the two sisters, and how big the conspiracy is, the reader will be completely involved.
The plot is complicated, but the stakes are not. Siobhan and Lucy are two women who are fighting the good fight with the help of some good men, but all involved are flawed human beings, and no one walks away from this case without being challenged and changed. That’s what makes those characters interesting, and that’s what will keep readers reading Lucy Kincaid novels as long as Brennan keeps writing them.
Listen to an excerpt from The Lost Girls!
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Katherine Tomlinson is a former reporter who prefers making things up. She was editor of Astonishing Adventures Magazine and the publisher of Dark Valentine Magazine. She edited the charity anthology Nightfalls. Her dark fiction has appeared in Shotgun Honey, A Twist of Noir, Luna Station Quarterly, and Eaten Alive, as well as anthologies, including Weird Noir, Pulp Ink 2, Alt-Dead, Alt-Zombie, and the upcoming Grimm Futures, which she also edited. Her most recent collection of short stories is Suicide Blonde. She sees way too many movies.