“Little Girl Gone” by Gerry Schmitt is the first book in her new Afton Tangler series. This mystery about a baby kidnapping is not a who-done-it since early on readers know who is the perpetrator. This author is also known as “cozy mystery writer,” Laura Childs, but a warning: there is nothing cozy about this plot. The mystery comes in as people try to figure out along with the protagonists how they are going to solve the case, given the clues the author provides.
The reason for her pen name of Childs is that “I owned an advertising agency at the time I started writing. I was fairly well known in the Twin Cities. I decided not to co-mingle my two careers. Of course I was found out. Advertising did help me write because I had to have creativity on demand. When I start to write I never have a tight outline. I can see a stage play happening as things just come into my mind.”
From the beginning the story is very ominous. In a mall a mother meets a woman, Marjorie, who sells re-born dolls, which is a true creepy profession. This antagonist is spooky in herself with a very disturbing personality. She has her son follow the mother home and that night in an affluent neighborhood of Minneapolis, the baby is abducted from her house 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.
“I was researching something else and ran into this topic,” Schmitt said. “Women take a doll, strip out the hair and eyeballs, completely breaking them down, put in a motor to have a heart beat, paint them, and then put in human hair. They are adopted for lots of money. I actually went into a chat room where this woman was talking about not bonding with the one she had. How weird is that? I wanted to make sure the antagonist who made these dolls was terrifying, cunning, evil, and bizarre.”
The main character, Afton, is a family liaison officer with the Minneapolis P.D. It is her job to be the go-between for the police and the victims of terrible crimes. Afton struggles to prove herself to the police force, juggle work and family life, as well as maintain her physical and mental strength. Because she is intuitive, smart, and desires to become a detective she wiggles her way into the investigation, working closely with the FBI and Detective Max Montgomery. Able to connect the dots and find clues she becomes a valuable asset and more like a partner to law enforcement as they try to stay ahead of the criminals and find them before they kidnap and murder again.
Will Afton ever realize her dream of becoming a detective? Schmitt gave a heads up, “In my next book, ‘Shadow Girls,’ she is still a ‘wannabe’ cop. She pushes her way into the investigation. In real life, crime liaisons get very involved with both the victim and the police. I really don’t know yet what her profession will be. Maybe she will become a cop or maybe she and Max will spin off to a private detective agency. I really don’t know yet. What I do know is there will not be a romantic relationship between Afton and Max, just a working relationship.”
This novel is very plot driven. Readers will be at the edge of their seats as the spooky criminals take center stage. Anyone wanting a riveting story that has elements of realism should read this book.