This quirky, quick read is part mystery and part commentary on alienation and mall culture. In 1984 England, Kate is a a ten year old orphan living with her disinterested grandmother. A loner, her only friends are Adrian, the 22 year old son of the local newsstand owner and Theresa, a bright but troubled schoolmate. Most of her spare time is spent being a "girl detective," trying to solve mysteries and prevent crimes (rather unsuccessfully in her own assessment.) With her faithful stuffed monkey by her side, Kate turns her attention on the Green Oaks mall, where she is sure she will have her big break. Staking out the bank and watching people, Kate writes everything she sees in her ever-present notebook, into which we are given a glimpse. Then Kate disappears. Flash forward to 2003, where the story turns to the lives of two disaffected employees at the Green Oaks mall. Lisa, Adrian's sister, is unhappy in her relationship and in her job at a mega-music store. Her brother, who was the main suspect in Kate's disappearance, has also vanished and only contacts his sister once a year via mail. Kurt is a security guard at the mall who, in the middle of the night, starts seeing a little girl with a stuffed monkey on his video monitor. The two pair up in an attempt to find the girl and instead must face the past and decide on whether they will keep living lonely, unhappy lives.
At times laugh-out-loud funny, at times heart wrenching, this novel is an outstanding debut by Catherine O'Flynn. Especially recommended to anyone who has ever worked in a mall.