When Ellie goes missing on the first day of Schueberfouer, the police are dismissive, keen not to attract negative attention on one of Luxembourg's most important events.
Probation officer, Cate Austin, has moved for a fresh start, along with her daughter Amelia, to live with her police detective boyfriend, Olivier Massard. But when she realises just how casually he is taking the disappearance of Ellie, Cate decides to investigate matters for herself.
She discovers Luxembourg has a dark heart. With its geographical position, could it be the centre of a child trafficking ring? As Cate comes closer to discovering Ellie's whereabouts she uncovers a hidden world, placing herself in danger, not just from traffickers, but from a source much closer to home.
Nowhere Girl by Ruth Dugdall is published by Legend Press on 31 October 2015.
I've been a fan of Ruth Dugdall's writing for some time now and have reviewed two of her previous novels here on Random Things; The Woman Before Me (November 2013) and Humber Boy B (March 2015). She is also the author of The Sacrificial Man (2011) and The James Version (2012).
Nowhere Girl features ex Probation Officer Cate Austin as lead character, and follows on from the earlier novels. However, although this could be classed as a series, Nowhere Girl is also perfect as a completely stand alone novel. The author expertly allows the reader enough glimpses into Cate's past within the story, allowing full enjoyment and understanding of her character.
Cate has quit her demanding and often overwhelming job as Probation Officer in the UK. She's worked on some pretty heavy and high profile cases in the past, and encountered people and situations that have shown her the darkest, murkiest side of humanity. Cate was good at her job, she loved her job, but her blossoming romance with Olivier Massard has shown her that she could do other things. Cate and her young daughter Amelia have moved to Luxembourg to join Olivier at his home.
At first, being a homemaker and mother is something of a novelty for Cate. She immerses herself into her new life, encouraging Amelia with school and new friends. Things change when a young girl goes missing from the Schueberfouer Fair and Olivier and his police colleagues do not seem to be taking it as seriously as Cate thinks they should. There are links between Cate and the missing girl Ellie; Amelia is friends with her younger sister and Cate has met her mother. Cate's experience in the Probation service and her growing unease about the case lead her to start to look deeper in the circumstances. The things that she uncovers are shocking and will change Cate's views on Luxembourg.
Ruth Dugdall's books deal with the dark and sinister happenings in the underworld; the things that we are vaguely aware of, but rarely encounter. Nowhere Girl is bang up to date, dealing as it does with human trafficking and the desperate situations that illegal immigrants can find themselves in.
The author paints a bleak and depressing picture of inner Luxembourg and its immigrant population. Her female characters, especially Amina - the young girl from Algeria are solid and believable. Her descriptive passages are haunting and Amina's longing for her homeland and her family is tangible. The fear of discovery fuels the plot of this novel, the decisions taken by many of the characters are purely done through desperation and the reader becomes quite overwhelmed by the despair.
I was totally convinced, and at times, horrified by Nowhere Girl. The author is hugely talented and has the ability to shock the reader with a twist that I certainly didn't anticipate. Nowhere Girl is at times a difficult read, but is always gripping and the plot and the characters are still lingering in my mind.
My thanks to Jessica at Legend Press who sent my copy for review.
Ruth Dugdall worked as a Probation Officer for almost a decade in high security prisons in the Suffolk area. Now living in Luxembourg, she is currently working at a local prison.
Ruth has years of experience working with children who have been convicted of murder, having been based at one of the UK's three prisons that specialise in this area.
Ruth's writing is heavily influenced by her professional background, providing authenticity and credibility to the crime genre.
Visit Ruth at www.ruthdugdall.com
Follow her on Twitter @RuthDugdall
Follow on Twitter @legend_press