Set in Luxembourg, this story centres upon a missing teenager and what turns out to be a wider network of exploited and abused young people. All this happens right under the noses of everyday citizens too caught up in their own affairs or too disinterested to pay it any attention.
The abducted teenager (Ellie) goes missing at a fairground and there is a powerful image of her younger sister watching the empty carriages on the big wheel turning one by one, feeling more and more afraid.
Soon after, in a truck heading north, we meet Amina and Jodie, two Muslim girls hoping to find safety and a better standard of living. Amina’s experience of the new landscape in contrast to her life on the farm is beautifully described. She is open to new experiences but can’t help but wonder at the Christian spires which, to her, look like daggers as compared to the comforting curve of mosque roves.
The book has three more important female characters. One is Cate Austin, a recurrent character in Dugdall’s novels. As an ex-probation officer with a police detective boyfriend, she becomes more and more involved with the case. There is also Ellie’s mother and her high school teacher.
The ground is laid for a fascinating, twisty-turny tale with some delicious surprises – especially in terms of Ellie’s mother who isn’t at all the character I thought she was at the start of the novel.
Even so, recently I reviewed Humber Boy B (Ruth’s previous novel), and I thought it was far superior to this.
I enjoyed Nowhere Girl with its clean, effective prose however, at times, I found the characters and their actions unconvincing. Ellie’s terrible treatment at the hands of her kidnappers doesn’t seem to tie up with what happens later; Cate’s interference with an on-going police investigation seems incredibly stupid and naïve and I think most heroin addicts would snatch at a £20 note quick as blinking.
Overall, though, if you enjoy crime drama and want something a bit out of the ordinary, this could be the book for you.
Three and a half bites