The Lost Daughter by Lucretia Grindle

A ‘gripping thriller’ and a ‘heartbreaking romance’; a novel with an identity crisis.

The Lost Daughter and I got off on the wrong foot and it all started with the blurb. The thing about a blurb is that it makes promises to the reader about what is going to be served up between the front and back cover. The Lost Daughter didn’t live up to those promises. It was as if the blurb had been written by someone who hadn’t actually read the book but had been given the general gist and then misunderstood which were the important plot points; the story I was promised and the story I actually read were a little like second cousins once removed.

Not that the story itself wasn’t a good one. It was, at times, compelling. But it was not a gripping thriller. I’m not even sure if it really fits the ‘crime’ genre. Yes, crimes are committed – the 1978 kidnap and murder of Italian politician Aldo Moro in Rome and the present day kidnap of American student Kristen Carson and subsequent disappearance of her step-mother, Anna, in Florence – but these crimes take a backseat to the narrative that drives the novel.

In order to understand the events in Florence in 2010, Grindle takes us back to Ferrara, 1965, and Rome, 1978, to tell us Angela Vari’s story – a story of love, loyalty and betrayal. This is the story that makes the book. In some ways, the events in 2010 are a distraction. I didn’t care about the 2010 characters; I wasn’t given any reason to invest in them. I just wanted to know about Angela: her relationship with her father, her friendship with Barbara Barelli and her intense romance with Antonio Tomaselli.

But even there, I was left feeling a little cheated. The scenes with Angela and the kidnapped Aldo Moro, scenes that I felt should have been great, climactic, momentous exchanges were barely touched upon before the story moved on. And the opportunity to really question Angela’s motives and cast doubt into the reader’s mind was missed altogether.

Overall it was a frustrating read. Too much time given to minor characters I didn’t care about. Too much jumping forwards and backwards in the narrative rather than just getting on with telling the story as it happened. Too little time given to the real story of the book – the love affair between Angela Vari and Antonio Tomaselli and how it related to the part that each of them played in the death of Aldo Mori.

Not one for me, I’m afraid.

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