Lost (Joe O’Loughlin 2) by Michael Robotham

lostPainful memories…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz awakes in hospital to discover that he has lost all memory of the events that have put him there. He has been shot through the leg and was dragged half-dead from the Thames, the boat he was on drifting empty but with the blood of more than one person on the deck. His furious boss accuses him of having been involved in a rogue operation to pay ransom for the return of a missing child – young Mickey Carlyle, who went missing three years earlier and is presumed dead, with her supposed killer convicted and in prison. Ruiz knows that if he was indeed willing to help with the ransom payment, he must have had some reason for believing that Mickey is alive, so turns to his psychologist friend, Professor Joe O’Loughlin, for help in trying to retrieve his memories. And meantime, though he is suspended from duty, he is desperate to find Mickey, if she is still alive…

This is another excellent thriller from Michael Robotham, who is rapidly becoming one of my favourite crime writers. Although the two main characters are the same as in the first in the series, The Suspect, Robotham has shifted the point of view from Joe O’Loughlin in the earlier one to Vincent Ruiz in this one. Still unfortunately written in the first person present tense, it seems to me that Robotham has improved at that technique between the two books, and this one avoided the occasional clumsiness that marred the last one. Changing the point of view means that we get to know much more about Ruiz in this one, finding out about his family background and the early tragedy that is still affecting him as he approaches retirement. It also means that we see O’Loughlin from a different perspective, getting a more rounded picture of how he appears to other people. I’ve only read one other in the series – no. 6, Watching You – and that is told mainly in the third person. It’s an interesting approach that means we keep the familiarity of the same characters while getting a fresh angle on them each time.

Michael Robotham
Michael Robotham

The plot is complex but credible, and though there are plenty of twists to keep the reader guessing, each one stays within the bound of believability. There’s plenty of action, and occasionally Ruiz perhaps strays just a little too much towards superhero status. Set in London, there’s a good sense of place and, as we are taken down beneath the city into the sewers and tunnels, Robotham uses his clearly thorough research lightly to create atmosphere and tension with some fine descriptive writing. But the real strength of the book is in the characterisation. Ruiz is the main focus of this one and, although he is carrying some heavy personal baggage, he is in no way a stereotypical angst-ridden maverick. He is a successful professional copper, well respected until the events at the start of the book – making it all the more intriguing to discover what has made him act so out of character. The other characters are well-rounded too – Mickey’s parents, the other officers involved in the investigation, Ruiz’s mother and of course Joe O’Loughlin himself.

Although this is a series, each of the books stands alone and there isn’t really a continuing story arc as such. So my recommendation is to grab any one you can get hold of and settle down for a thoroughly enjoyable read. I’m certainly looking forward to catching up with the rest of the series.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Mulholland Books.

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32 thoughts on “Lost (Joe O’Loughlin 2) by Michael Robotham

  1. FictionFan – Oh, isn’t this a great one!!! I really like Ruiz as a character, and as you say, these novels fit together as a series; yet they can be enjoyed as standalones. And what stories, too! 🙂

    • Yes, each of the ones I’ve read has been great! And I liked that Ruiz took centre stage in this one – it gave us a chance to get to know him better. Nice to discover an author who seems to be consistently inventive… 🙂

  2. I’m in need of a new crime writer at the moment, being pretty much up to date with those I read regularly and nothing much being due out over the next few weeks. Robotham is a new name; I’ll give him a spin.

    • I think you might enjoy him. The endings are a bit thrillerish sometimes, but they have good plots and the characterisation is very strong. I loved his most recent standalone – Life or Death – will be in the running for my crime book of the year…

  3. Haven’t read any of these – I find the present tense so off-putting that I can’t bring myself to try. Besides, I’m on a re-reading kick at the moment.

  4. Interesting. You don’t mention much about the language, though.

    I’ve got another writer to tempt you with. I just attended a novelist panel for Litquake this weekend. One of them mentioned a crime writer named Ross Macdonald. He was/is considered on of the “Holy Trinity” of American (although he’s apparently American-Canadian) crime writers. Chandler and Hammett are/were the other two. Ever heard of him. Apparently, his language/human insights is/are stunning. I looked through your reviews and didn’t find one in your author line-up. Did I miss something? Here’s a Guardian tribute to the man and his books. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/aug/01/ross-macdonald-crime-novels

    • Interesting article. I read some of his stuff hundreds of years ago when the world was young – and so was I. That’s the problem with the blog – it only gives an impression of what I read now, and I’m so inundated with new stuff hardly any old stuff gets on. From memory, they were very good but, to be honest, I’m not really overly keen on noir, especially *gulps* American noir. I think it’s ‘cos everything tends to come down to guns in the end, and it’s just not part of my culture, so I always preferred the more Poirot-ish approach of the ‘little grey cells’. And I like a bit of uplift at the end, as if the world has been made better again. I think I’m pretty insular with crime – I really seem to prefer British authors. Whereas in lit-fic, I’m loving my trip through American greats (Don’t tell the Brits, but I think I’m actually preferring American writers as far as the 20th century is concerned.)

      As usual, you’ve made me think! It occurs to me that my favourite crime writer of all, Reginald Hill, has still never appeared on the blog…must rectify that soon…and maybe revisit MacDonald and see what my older self thinks… 🙂

    • Oh, and re the writing. It is well written but he doesn’t really go in for poetic flourishes or anything like that. I’d call it functional if that didn’t sound disparaging – but the language in these is really a competent tool to convey the plot and characterisation rather than a major feature on its own…

  5. Oh dear you’ve just reminded me I still have this author hovering around the TBR from your last review which persuaded me I was missing out on something special. I do like a complex plot so I really must clear some space to read one, and soon. Great review as always and luckily I’m not prejudiced against the first person present tense 🙂

    • Thanks, Cleo! I think you’ll enjoy these, especially since you have that weird liking for FPPT! 😉 The good thing is that you can really read any one of these without feeling you have to read them all. I think it was the standalone that I talked you into last time anyway, though…

  6. I like that one can pick up any book in the series (if I understand that correctly). This one sounds interesting, and like they could make a BBC crime series out of this author’s work.

    • You do understand it correctly. 🙂 I like that you can read any one of them without feeling you absolutely have to read all the rest – I’m not a huge fan of continuing storylines personally. Yes, I think these would make a great series – I wonder if they will…

  7. I’ve just read ‘The Night Ferry’ and loved it. Ruiz is a minor character and the main narrative point of view is that of DC Alisha Barba, a Brit of Indian descent and a remarkably authentic creation for a middle-aged, white male writer (Robotham admits he rose to this challenge on his website!). His new standalone, ‘Life or Death’ is also excellent.

    • I think that’s the next one in the series. It’s a bit confusing because they all seem to have been issued under two titles each, presumably for the American market. Ali was in this one as Ruiz’s colleague, and I liked her character a lot so it’s good to hear she’s central next time. It’s a great idea to rotate through them like that – keeps it very fresh. I loved Life or Death – it’ll be in the running for my crime book of the year… 🙂

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