Child Lost by Michelle Cox
Praise Child Lost by Michelle Cox
Michelle Cox is the author of the multiple award-winning Henrietta and Inspector Howard series, as well as Novel Notes of Local Lore, a weekly blog dedicated to Chicago’s forgotten residents. She suspects she may have once lived in the 1930s and, having yet to discover a handy time machine lying around, has resorted to writing about the era as a way of getting herself back there. (Her books have been praised by Kirkus, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and many others, so she might be on to something.)
Unbeknownst to most, Cox hoards board games she doesn’t have time to play and is, not surprisingly, addicted to period dramas and big band music. Also, marmalade.
Stan joined Rose, his hands stuffed in his pockets, and they began walking briskly down the street, though Stan had no idea where they were headed.
“Want to get a cup of coffee?” she asked without looking at him. They turned onto Armitage, into the wind, causing them to bend slightly forward.
Stan wanted to point out that they could have had free coffee if they’d stayed at his parents’, but he didn’t say so. Clearly, Rose had something important on her mind. “Sure,” he said and then added, “so what’s this all about, Rose? Something wrong?”
“I’ll explain in a minute,” she said loudly over the wind, still bent slightly and looking down at the sidewalk as they walked.
They continued in silence until they reached Kaufmann’s and went inside, the shop bell tinkling as they entered. Rose led them to a back booth, and Stan slid onto the thick, leather seat. Rose sat opposite him. Stan looked at the small chalkboard hanging beside a Coca-Cola sign to peruse the specials before remembering that they weren’t actually here to eat. He pulled his eyes away from the menu to look at Rose now, but as he did so, he nearly cried out loud. She had removed her coat and slightly pulled back her scarf to fully reveal her face, the right side of which was swollen and purple.
“Jesus, Rose!” Stan bellowed, his stomach churning at the sight of her bruised face. “What happened? Did you fall?” Then it suddenly dawned on him. He could see tiny tears in the corners of her eyes. Jesus Christ. “Was it . . . it wasn’t your dad, was it?” he asked, his breath labored.
Rose gave the tiniest of nods and looked away.
Stan felt as though he had been punched himself, fury shooting
through him. How dare her old man! He would kill him! he resolved wildly. His urge was to go right then and there. Why were they sitting calmly in a diner? How could . . . how could anyone hit a woman, and your daughter at that? He knew Rose’s father was a drunk, but it didn’t excuse it.
“I’m going to kill him, Rose!” Stan huffed, grabbing his hat just as the thick waitress appeared beside the table.
“What’ll it be, kids?” she asked dully.
“Stanley, just calm down,” Rose said firmly. “We’ll have two black coffees,” she said to the waitress.
“That it?” the waitress asked, clearly annoyed.
“For now,” Rose said, staring her down.
“Nice shiner,” the waitress said, looking over at Stanley as if he were a piece of dirt.
“Hey!” Stanley said, realizing the meaning behind her withering look, but she had already moved away.
“Jeez, Rose. I said if he ever touched you, I’d kill him! So, now I’m going to kill him.” He threw his hat back onto the seat.
“Come on, Stanley, be serious.”
“I am being serious!” He was filled with rage and . . . and what? Mortification? Humiliation? Rose was his! No one had the right to touch her but him, and even then . . . Suddenly, he felt he might vomit. He couldn’t look at her face for more than a few seconds at a time.
“Stanley, I don’t know what I’m going to do!” she said suddenly, cradling her forehead on the tips of her fingers and beginning to cry.
Stanley felt a flood of something else release within him now, a desperate sort of pity mixed with panic. “Rose . . . hey, Rose!” he said
gently. “Hey, it’s going to be all right. We’ll think of something.”
“He’s getting worse, Stan. He beat Billy again. And I can’t keep
taking him to Lucy and Gwen’s. They were nice enough to keep him for a while. I thought things had calmed down, so I brought him back a few nights ago. It was a mistake, I guess. The ol’ man had a go at him the very first night. I tried to stop it, and this is what I got,” she said pointing to her damaged face. “I took Billy back to Lucy and Gwen’s, but I could tell they weren’t too happy. I mean, I guess I wouldn’t be, either. He can’t just stay there forever.”
The waitress appeared with two coffees. Seeing Rose’s tears, she gave Stanley another snide look and walked away, mumbling “men” under her breath.
Stanley wrapped his hands around one of the thick white mugs and tried to calm himself. What the hell was he going to do? So far he had been elusive in describing Rose’s familial situation to his parents, particularly his mother, only giving the barest of facts that Rose’s mother was dead and that she lived with her father and younger brother. Rose had been elusive, too, during the few times she managed to come to dinner at the Dubowski’s, and Stanley had taken his cues from her—not only on this subject but regarding many topics, actually. He was impressed, truth be told, by how smoothly she outfoxed his mother—a difficult feat by any stretch, one which he and his father had given up trying to achieve long ago. His first thought was that they should explain the situation—partially, maybe?—to his parents. But to what end? He could maybe talk them into letting Rose move into the spare bedroom, but where did that leave Billy? That seemed to be the real problem here. Billy. He hadn’t yet mentioned to his parents that his fiancé’s brother was backward. He wasn’t sure what they would say to that. Well, he could guess . . .
“I . . . I’m desperate, Stan,” Rose was saying. “I don’t have enough money to move out on my own, and we can’t stay there anymore. I can’t take it. I don’t mind for myself, but I can’t take Billy being punched and kicked and . . . ” She broke down into sobs, covering her face with her hands.
“You all right, doll?” the waitress called from where she poured coffee at the counter for other customers.
“Yeah, she’s fine,” Stan called out weakly, turning slightly toward the counter. The waitress, holding the coffee pot midair, continued to stare at Rose, waiting for some kind of confirmation from her.
As if sensing the waitress’s eyes on her, Rose looked up and nodded sadly.
“Jeez,” Stan mumbled. “A guy can’t win.”
Buy Child Lost by Michelle Cox
A Child lost is a gripping tale of mystery set in 1936. It was a time of great turmoil in Europe, and Gunther had to make the ultimate sacrifice as he went to America in the hopes for a future for him and Anna. A six-year-old girl, not related to himself, in the hopes to find her mother. Soon the plot became a serious of suspense as murder, theft and abuse take the front stage.
I understand this is part of the series, the last book so far, but in the end, I trust the story will continue with Henrietta and Clive’s journey. Though it began with Gunther and Anna, the point of view changed to that of the would-be private investigators in an era when it was unheard of for a woman to work or study. With this turn of events, the author introduced another character as part of the growing characters. Elsie is a young woman who is determined to find her own way. Against the advice of her mother and grandfather she enrols in the, I believe University to become a teacher.
Some topics worthy to mention are mental illness, and the devastation of treatment these poor soles had to endure while in Dunning, a mental institution. The author really had a good understanding of this and touched the topic with finesse and empathy. Miscarriage and the death of a spouse were also touched, and here we see one husband’s desperate plea to take care of his wife as fear grabbed him. In the end, both their attitudes towards their loss had built a bridge that will have a lasting effect on the marriage. PTSD, and the effects of war, was another subject the author wielded with great care.
The love of Clive and Henrietta is touching the heartstrings and the love scenes done with passionate ease. Love an important cornerstone of this couple and the story. Clive’s overprotectiveness and Harriette’s independence caused for some interesting moments.
Problems within the storyline: Too much throat-clearing stopped the story’s flow. With unnecessary dialogue that either could have been left out or cut in half.
Two other characters are also introduced and though the subject of abuse at the hand of the father is pertinent, it had no bearing on the story. Maybe it will continue in the follow-up of this book.
A cursing Clive doesn’t fit with the character he portrays, nor the period. I cannot see that a gentleman of his status will talk in this manner.
There are a few times I wondered if the book setting is in 1936. Then I had to go back to the synopsis to remind myself that it is in fact historical. Some incidents seemed more appropriate for today.
An interesting storyline with a worthy cause to generate a pleasant story filled with enough mystery to keep reading. The romance is believable and touching, which makes this a good read. The principal characters are believable and the supporting characters played their roles perfectly, filling in the gaps for the would-be detectives.