A Vancouver woman with demons to spare is asked to find a teen runaway in Kamal’s searing debut.
When Nora Watts receives a 5 a.m. phone call from a man named Everett Walsh insisting that she might know something about a missing girl, his desperation is palpable. Nora, who "help[s] look for missing people for a living," reluctantly meets with Everett and his wife, Lynn, and finds out that their 15-year-old daughter, Bonnie, is missing, but because she’s run away before, the police won’t take it seriously. Nora is their last resort, they tell her, because she's Bonnie's biological mother—she'd given the girl up for adoption 15 years earlier. At first, Nora doesn’t want anything to do with the case, but something pulls at her, and as she digs deeper, it threatens to pull her all the way under. Nora narrates her own story, and she doesn’t care if you like her. In fact, she keeps everyone at arm’s length, taking comfort only in her beloved dog, Whisper, stealing from those who show her kindness, and refusing help from the private investigator and journalist who employ her. Estranged from her younger sister and a former child of the foster care system, she used to seek solace in the bottle, and it always threatens right at the edge of her vision. Nora’s Vancouver in winter is one of endless natural beauty, but dark currents run beneath it that highlight the harsh treatment of indigenous people, especially girls and women, and the ease with which they are swept away and forgotten. It’s a bracing reality that underscores Nora’s painful, violent past, and debut novelist Kamal uses her own background in community activism to great effect. As Nora searches for Bonnie, the trail of corruption leads her to a wealthy family with ties to mining, but what would they have to do with a missing girl? The truth is beyond terrifying, and if readers think they know where this is going, they’ll likely be surprised. The brutal finale tests Nora to her very limits. Though comparisons to Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander are inevitable, Nora blazes her own shining trail.
A gritty, violent read with a tough, idiosyncratic, dryly witty heroine readers will root for even if they wouldn’t want to invite her home.