Title: The Lost Children (DCI Matilda Darke #9)
Author: Michael Wood
Published on: 30 June 2022
Genre: Mystery and Thriller | Police Procedural
The Lost Children is the ninth book in Michael Wood’s DCI Matilda Darke Mystery series.
1997: Reverend Peter Ogilvy is waiting at the Sheffield police station to report a crime. He had an appointment with the Chief at 10 am. Almost an hour later, Rev. Peter is called in. He tells the Chief about the murder of a seven-year-old boy named Sean. He says the murder happened at Magnolia House Children’s Home. He hands over a written statement about Sean’s murder and the happenings at Magnolia House.
The Chief says he’ll look into it but nothing happens. The Reverend returns to Magnolia House (where he works) and that evening, he’s tied up and threatened by the bad guys. They want him to keep his mouth shut or they would kill him.
2020: The coronavirus is spreading across UK and the rumor is, there might be a nation-wide lockdown. A wealthy and successful business, Richard Ashcroft, OBE, is found brutally murdered in his home. His privates are cut off and stuffed inside his mouth. DCI Matilda Darke is assigned the case. When she arrives at the crime scene, she realizes such a horrific way of killing would mean just one thing: it was personal.
That same evening, when her team leaves for the day but Matilda is still working, her boss ACC Ridley asks about the case and says he wants to know if there are any further developments. The forensics (IT) call her to say they found thousands of photos and videos of children (child pornography) in the iPad obtained from the victim’s house.
The next day, the lab is ransacked and the evidence is stolen. DI Christian Brady, Matilda’s partner, says it might be related to Paul Chattle. Before killing himself in front of Christian, Paul said Richard Ashcroft abused him when he was a child. Matilda and her team start this line of investigation and learn Ashcroft owned Magnolia House. As they begin to track the victims of abuse, Matilda’s boss interferes and says they are not to look into the abuse case.
Then, Matilda gets a call. From the killer…
Warning: This book contains graphic descriptions of sexual abuse and gruesome murder.
The previous book ended with Matilda finally catching a serial killer red-handed. The killer’s victims were sex workers. The identity of the killer – DS Sian Mills’ husband! During the investigation, DI Christian had come across the boyfriend of a victim – he claimed he was abused by Richard Ashcroft, a well-known property developer. The victim shot himself in front of Christian soon after naming Richard as his abuser.
When Richard Ashcroft is found brutally murdered in his home, Christian discusses the child-abuse angle. When the evidence from lab is stolen, it becomes pretty clear that big names are involved. And they would go to any level to stop the investigations. As Matilda and her team start to look into Magnolia House Children’s Home abuse, she’s warned by her boss. He’s received orders from the higher authorities.
But Matilda does not take NO for an answer. She wants to bring justice to the innocent boys whose lives were stolen from them. She meets Rev. Peter Ogilvy. He tells her about one of the boys who currently owns a fruit and veg store in the marketplace. Christian also seems to be vested in the case. Matilda wonders if Christian’s interest to bring justice to the victims has some personal angle to it.
With the lockdown in place, Matilda faces more hurdles. With the higher ups not wanting her to dig deeper into the case, it is going to be difficult for Matilda to bring the perps to justice.
It was heart-wrenching to read about the abuse the young boys go through at the Children’s Home. These boys lost their parents for no fault of their own. Instead of being given another chance to trust and be safe, they were abused. There were scenes which I just couldn’t read. It was so horrific and sad. Why are some human beings worse? Why do they snatch innocence from children and scar them for life? These are exactly the questions that the killer is trying to find answers to.
As the story is set during the first lockdown, we are given glimpses of the situation. Empty aisles at supermarkets, hoarding food and toilet paper, masking and risk of infecting those with compromised immunity, and closure of non-essential shops (including pubs and cafes).
The investigation into the abuse and murders is very impressive. We have Matilda and her team – Christian, Scott and Sian, and ME Adele doing their best to bring the perps to justice. As the body count increases, so does the calls (from killer) to Matilda. But the higher ups would do anything to stop the investigation using pandemic as an excuse to make decisions that might affect the whole team.
I have read the previous two books of this series. Michael Wood is a master storyteller. The stories are a tad gory and violent but the mysteries and the suspense are sure to keep one hooked until the end. Excellent character development and we also get to see a bit of recurring characters’ personal lives. They did have a setback in Survivor’s Guilt when half of Matilda’s team was massacred by a serial killer outside the police station. Matilda too was injured badly – she survived a bullet through her skull.
The identity of the perp was a huge shocker. Then there is justice… not in a way you think, though.
If you like gritty and dark police procedurals, I recommend you to give The Lost Children by Michael Wood a try. Remember, the story highlights sexual abuse and how rich men use money to stop the victims and whistleblowers from accusing them of the crime.
I received an ARC from One More Chapter and NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.