By Margaret Fenton
Oceanview Publishing, 2009
Reviewed by Julia Oliver
The author lives in Birmingham, the city that provides the locales for this compelling first novel. In crisp, camera’s-eye style, Margaret Fenton has placed her first-person narrator, Claire Conover, at the helm of a horrific enigma: Michael, a little boy she knows well, has been murdered. As the child’s caseworker with the Department of Mental Services, Claire had recommended he be returned from a stint in foster care to his mother, Ashley Hennessy. Aided by Claire’s guidance and encouragement, Ashley had cleaned up her act, and regained custody of her son. Now Claire learns that Michael has died in Ashley’s apartment from drug-poisoned orange juice in a “sippy cup,” and the single mom has been arrested by the police. Obviously terrified of something or someone, Ashley refuses to tell Claire what she knows about this tragic event.
Two good guy rivals for Claire’s affection, a newspaper reporter and a computer expert, come to her assistance in the frantic search for clues as to who committed the crime and why. Will the killer strike again? Claire herself appears to be a target when she is stalked while hiking in Oak Mountain State Park, and her tires are slashed.
Astute description makes the story and its settings visual to the reader: “The living room was dim and tiny, stuffed with mismatched 1950s furniture and a ridiculously huge big-screen TV. It was blaring QVC, which competed with the staccato beat of rap music from another room. A plastic ashtray on the coffee table held a tin scrap of joint and a roach clip. The shag-carpeted floor flexed when I walked.” The storyline has enough tension and complication to keep the reader guessing as to how it will all turn out.
The cover design of this handsomely produced, well-sleuthed whodunit is starkly dramatic—Little Lamb Lost should be a standout in any new books display.
Among those cited in the author’s Acknowledgments are her writers group and the Birmingham Chapter of Sisters in Crime, the latter for “eight years of mystery-related fun.” Aug 2009
Julia Oliver is a novelist and journalist in Montgomery.