My latest reading experience took me to a country I knew little about – Luxembourg. It is true that armchair travel is very rewarding! In this novel the reader gets to see the darker side of a beautiful European city.
“Nowhere Girl” is the story of a missing teenage girl. The reader gets to experience the story from all points of view: the girl’s, her parent’s, the police…
Ellie Scheen, like most other teenage girls is having difficulty getting along with her mother. Friction ensues over Ellie’s choices. In a pique of rebellion Ellie disobeys her mother. The last time she is seen is near a Ferris wheel at the Schueberfouer.
Bridget, her mother, thinks that Ellie should be more responsible and be more aware of life’s dangers. She wants to teach her a lesson…
Bridget was once a nurse with Doctors without Borders. She has seen many horrors and misses the high adrenaline feeling of being needed. Her husband, Achim has been transferred to Luxembourg and sadly she cannot work as a nurse there because she lacks the necessary language skills. Now she is a stay-at-home Mom which makes her restless and bored.
This is also the story of Amina. Amina’s mother has saved and saved and finally has purchased Amina’s escape from Tizi Ouzou, Algeria, where there has been Islamic unrest. Amina’s brother Samir, now the head of the family, is displaying radical tendencies. A man named “Uncle Jak” has arranged for many to leave the city and Amina’s mother trusts him to get her daughter out – and away from Samir. He returns to Algeria twice a year and takes the eldest child of some families away, for a better life. Amina and another girl from Algeria have been brought to Luxembourg by “Uncle Jak”. They are living above a beauty salon. Life in Luxembourg is not what they expected – to say the least. They are virtual prisoners…
Finally, there is our protagonist, Cate. A former British probation officer, she has recently moved to Luxembourg with her daughter to live with her boyfriend who is a Luxembourg police detective. Cate (most recently in the author’s “Humber Boy B“) has also escaped her dysfunctional family by moving to Luxembourg. Her father is on trial in England for abusing her sister.
Cate’s boyfriend, Olivier, is in charge of the missing persons investigation into the disappearance of Ellie Scheen. Cate is torn between her loyalty to Olivier and her friendship with Bridget. Bridget is desperate for her daughter’s return. She begins writing a letter to her daughter not knowing if Ellie will ever get to read it. In the letter she reveals her own personal thoughts and secrets – communication with her daughter that may be ‘too little, too late”.
When the fates of Ellie and Amina intersect, the story’s tension ratchets up yet another notch. Both girls were very sympathetic characters, as was the little boy who lives in the house with them.
A novel about the guilt and sacrifice that comes with being a good parent, how dysfunction breeds dysfunction, how abuse and love can co-exist, and most of all the variations and permutations of ‘family’, this thriller ticks all the boxes. An interesting setting coupled with well drawn – though damaged – characters ensures an enjoyable – though disturbing – read. Recommended for anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers.
Ruth Dugdall was born in Suffolk, England, but currently lives in Luxembourg with her husband and two children. Like her protagonist Cate, she was also a probation officer before turning her attention to writing thrillers full time.