I have followed Ruth Dugdall since her first book featuring Cate Austin, The Woman Before Me, which really impressed me, as have The Sacrificial Man and Humber Boy B. One of the things I most admire about this series is that the author presents very different types of story, whilst keeping the chief protagonist as the link. Nowhere Girl is no different, this time Cate is in Luxembourg, no longer a Probation Officer, but that doesn’t stop her getting caught up in a crime.
Bridget has relented and taken her two daughters, Ellie and Gaynor to the opening day of Scheuberfouer, a carnival of festivities in Luxembourg, despite the fact that Ellie appears to be in the midst of a teenage rebellion Cate and her boyfriend Olivier Massard, have taken Cate’s daughter Amelia to enjoy the the rides and the stalls and after getting caught up in the traffic the evening seems set for a night of innocent excitement. Ruth Dugdall sets the scene beautifully and so it is all the more shocking, that Bridget and Gaynor return home without Ellie, she is missing and worse still the police don’t seem to be mounting any particularly great effort to find her. As Amelia and Gaynor attend the great school and Cate at somewhat at a loose end whilst Olivier, a Detective is busy at work, Cate offers to lend a hand with the school runs as Bridget despairs of ever seeing her daughter again.
Alongside this story we hear the tale of two girls, Jodie and Amina who find themselves in a house in Luxembourg after their parents sought a better life for them. While Amina is relatively happy working in the salon alongside Auntie, she isn’t getting the schooling she imagined and she is worried about what her brother will say back home when he realises she’s left home, a devout man, following the death of their father he is the man of the house. Meanwhile Jodie the brave strong one as they made their treacherous journey across the boarders soon becomes increasingly withdrawn after she begins work as a stooge for Jak at the fair.
This twisting tale is told through the number of days Ellie is missing. We see the tale unfold through Ellie eyes, her mother’s in anguished letters to her daughter, Amina’s struggle in a new country as well as piecing together Cate’s new domestic arrangements through her chronicle. Although Ellie’s story is the most arresting, Amina’s and by default the household in which she was living in was not without its own powerful storyline although I felt that Jodie’s story was somewhat side-lined once the girls arrived in Luxembourg.
I found the story captivating although I had a real struggle with some of Cate’s decisions, statements and actions. I think the author was illustrating that Cate who has escaped one difficult domestic situation and swapped it for one with different complexities was struggling without an anchor, but her behaviour seemed too erratic and foolhardy for the woman I had come to know, and admire in the previous books.
This is the first book I’ve read set in Luxembourg and the scene setting for the country, as well as giving the context in relation to those who are on its boarders, was excellently done. I also enjoyed the school gate scenes where it was apparent that the ex-pat community has its own hierarchy, in line with any other social gathering, the author really gave a feeling of the types of parents which was in stark contrast to the seedier goings on the other side of town.
I will definitely be interested to see what is in store for Cate now her difficulties in England have reached a conclusion and I can’t help but wonder how she’ll feel when she reflects on this part of her life. I’d like to thank the publishers Legend Press for giving me a copy of this book in return for my honest opinion. Nowhere Girl will be published on 31 October 2015.
Previous Books by Ruth Dugdall