“His desperation is so fresh and raw I can almost taste it.”
— Sheena Kamal, The Lost Ones
The lies we tell each other will always be followed by the truth. If there’s one thing that seems to be inevitable, it’s the past that forged us into the person we are today. Sheena Kamal’s debut thriller demonstrates her ability to develop a greatly flawed protagonist in Nora Watts as she is thrown into a dark road to the truth. In The Lost Ones, Nora Watts receives an unexpected call from desperate parents who claim their daughter has gone missing—a daughter that is also Nora Watts’. Drawn by a compelling urge to seek out a child that she had given away years ago in order to sever ties with a past that no mortal would want to hold onto, Nora Watts finds herself drifting down lanes that never make any sense until the pieces finally fit together and unveil the danger that remained in the shadow for far too long. Told in first-person, Sheena Kamal has succeeded in creating one of the most fascinating protagonist that easily reminds us of Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
With relatively short chapters, The Lost Ones easily immerses you into a grey and gloomy world seen through the eyes of a damaged and hard-shelled protagonist. Nora Watts’ past is one that is filled with severely harmful trauma and it doesn’t take long before you recognize her bleak perception of the world. There is nothing colourful or remotely beautiful in what Nora Watts sees in the world she lives in. It might actually be the first time that I’ve read a character who’s had a lot of bad things to say about Canada and its politics. Not only does it add to the darker tone of this book, but it also balances things out with the more joyful and optimistic visions we have about life. Having the story set mostly in Canada, Sheena Kamal also succeeds in incorporating a lot of history and social issues that permeate in the country, especially when it concerns Native Americans. Using Nora Watts as a vessel to divulge the prejudices and cruelty that has reigned on these people only shaped her character even more.
Nora Watts is also particularly skillful as a private investigator. Although often resourceful—or maybe I should say opportunistic—she shows a great talent in detecting lies whenever they have the unfortunate idea of showing up near her. Her nature to be quite straight-forward and sometimes really crude also helps her distance herself from everyone and rarely ever finds herself attached to anyone. Having suffered some really horrible events in the past has brought her to adapt into a minimalist lifestyle where happiness remains a slim and often unimportant part of her. However, Sheena Kamal integrates a companion to Nora Watts with Shadow, a sex-crazy canine and delivers some of the most amusing bonds to come to life. Their interaction remains one of the best pieces of dialogue in this book and also serves as a nice venue to understand the amount of hurt and loneliness that Nora Watts cohabits with.
If I were to recommend this book based solely on the protagonist’s taste in music, you’d never hear the last of me. Sheena Kamal has brought to life a truly fantastic character with a solid story for fans to rejoice at. Although it sometimes pushes the boundaries of realism and obliged me to extend my range for level of plausibility, the story in itself remained captivating and thoroughly entertaining. In fact, the story will suddenly dive into some pretty dull subjects (i.e. mining corporation dilemmas) that would normally keep my level of excitement low, but the bigger picture was a bit too tantalizing for me to let these elements ruin the experience. In the end, The Lost Ones serves us with a raw and obscure thriller that explores the bonds within family and the search for the truth. With this debut novel, I was able to enjoy a well-written story that starred a protagonist that is not likely to be soon forgotten. Sheena Kamal definitely knows what she’s doing and I’ll be looking forward to seeing what she’d come up with next.
THANK YOU TO HARPER COLLINS CANADA FOR SENDING ME A COPY FOR REVIEW!
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MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★★☆/