Little Girl Gone
Afton Tangler Thriller, Book #1
By Gerry Schmitt
Author’s Website: http://www.laurachilds.com/tangler.php
This review contains a couple of mild spoilers.
In the first Afton Tangler thriller, the unforgiving cold of a Minnesota winter hides the truth behind an even more chilling crime…
On a frozen night in an affluent neighborhood of Minneapolis, a baby is abducted from her home after her teenage babysitter is violently assaulted. The parents are frantic, the police are baffled, and, with the perpetrator already in the wind, the trail is getting colder by the second.
As family liaison officer with the Minneapolis P.D., it’s Afton Tangler’s job to deal with the emotional aftermath of terrible crimes—but she’s never faced a case quite as brutal as this. Each development is more heartbreaking than the last and the only lead is a collection of seemingly unrelated clues.
But, most disturbing of all, Afton begins to suspect that this case is not isolated. Whoever did this has taken babies before—and if Afton doesn’t solve this crime soon, more children are sure to go missing . . . (Goodreads)
Little Girl Gone is the first book in the proposed Afton Tangler series, and I think it is a solid beginning to a series with thrilling potential.
Afton is a thirtyish, single mother who works as a community liaison officer for the Minneapolis Police Department. However, she has a mind for investigation. She is called in to assist with a kidnapping case after a three month old child is abducted and her babysitter beaten and hogtied. The FBI has been called in to help work the case. Little Girl Gone follows Afton as she tags along with Detective Max Montgomery picking up on clues, investigating leads, and doing their best to bring baby Elizabeth Ann home.
I have been a fan of Gerry Schmitt’s work written under the pseudonym Laura Childs for many years so I was excited to try something new. When I had to consult an urban dictionary for the meaning of a word (a word that combines gut with a crass curse word) on page two, I knew that I was, indeed, entering a whole new world. We know from the very beginning the identity of the bad guys, and I generally do not care for this. Fully realizing that this is a thriller not a mystery, I prefer for there to be a bit more unknown for at least part of the book. Marjorie gave me the royal creeps with her “reborn” dolls, and I anticipated that creep factor to carry on throughout the book. Unfortunately, it did not, but we are left with one calculating, bat s@!* crazy villain. Her son Ronnie is creepy in his own way, and, to me, his stupidity was the scariest thing about him (although his rape fantasies were bad enough without being graphic).
Afton’s tenacious spirit is admirable, and she is obviously smart, quick thinking, and has good innate investigating skills. However, I was slow to warm up to her. She did some brave things, but they were also, at times, pretty dumb things, things that I do not think she would be able to get away with in a real police department. She has a big heart and a strong sense of justice. I particularly liked Detective Max Montgomery. Seasoned and a good investigator in his own right, I appreciated his willingness to listen to Afton and take her seriously. The supporting characters were varied and sometimes clichéd yet important to the story, but I had a hard time liking any of them. Included were a self absorbed teenager, a husband who was caught in a precarious relationship, a shallow wife on the brink, a ruthless reporter, and a clueless girlfriend.
The crimes themselves are a little hard to stomach since they involved children and the innocent elderly. If you are sensitive to such victims please read with caution. Schmitt’s writing was tight, and the story unfolded in a logical, well paced manner. I felt compelled to keep reading, wanting to know Elizabeth Ann’s fate. I wished parts of the story were better fleshed out. I wanted to know more about Marjorie’s thinking. Really, I wanted her motives to be more complex, not simply greed and sadistic inclinations. I wanted to know what happened to the characters after the end of the book – how their lives changed as a result of the kidnapping. Perhaps there will be more about them in future books.
I really did enjoy reading Little Girl Gone, but I think I might have had too high of expectations. Creepy dolls + taxidermy + stark winter backdrop + intrigue provide a firm foundation on which to build a good series. I will give the next book a chance. Recommended to fans of police procedurals and smart protagonists.