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Publisher's Summary

A lost little girl with her notebook and toy monkey appears on the CCTV screens of the Green Oaks shopping centre, evoking memories of junior detective Kate Meaney, missing for 20 years.

Kurt, a security guard with a sleep disorder, and Lisa, a disenchanted deputy manager at Your Music, follow her through the centre's endless corridors - welcome relief from the tedium of their lives.

But as this after-hours friendship grows in intensity, it brings new loss and new longing to light. This is 21st-century Britain with its addiction to consumerism, absurdity, and loneliness, unspoken guilt and hidden lives.

©2007 Catherine O'Flynn (P)2008 Isis Publishing Ltd

Critic Reviews

"An enthralling tale of a little girl lost, wrapped in a portrait of a changing community over two decades." (Observer)

What listeners say about What Was Lost

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Andy Parsons
  • 09-10-2009

Touching and funny

?What was lost? is a brilliant book, touching and very funny the big themes of loss and disconnection are explored with deadpan deftness.

There are not many convincing books about the world of work in shops and shopping malls - they are not where authors hang out, clearly Catherine O?Flynn is the exception. This is so authentic and so funny it has to be drawn from life.

There is a fabulous disciplinary interview where the assistant manager of the Music and the head of the easy listening section discuss an incident where he has pushed a CD into a customer?s face. By the end of the interview you have considerable sympathy for the staff member and understand what has driven him to this action. It is a day in the life of every manager and says a lot about the complexity and divided loyalties of work relationships.

It is the depth and sympathy with which all the characters are drawn that really makes the book stand out but the plot too is tightly balanced, unusual and intriguing. It?s kind of Kate Atkinson country which is meant to be high praise.

As you can tell I loved the book and reading is also quite superb try it even if it is not your normal thing there are so many levels on which to enjoy it.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Charles
  • 11-10-2008

A Great Reading of an excellent first novel

The text of this book is well reviewed elsewhere but I wanted to say a word about the narration by Colleen Prendergast. I listen to a lot of audiobooks and yet this is one of the best readings I have come across. Not only are the voices of individual characters well realised but she has a lovely way with the one-liners which enliven what is otherwise a sombre and very moving book. More please from this lady.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Linda
  • 11-08-2008

A well written, sad tale

This is an engaging story that follows the disappearance of an unusual and lonely little girl and the effect it has on the later lives of of many of those connected with her. It's about loneliness and loss and how people can be surrounded by the bustling environment of a shopping mall and yet feel so alone. Even though there are sad underones don't think that this book is dreary: the dialogue is lively and convincing, the characterizations amusing and the narration with the great 'Brummy' accents makes it an entertaining as well as thought provoking 'read'.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 28-07-2009


A story full of sad lost people which could have been utterly depressing but for the beautifully gauged use of black humour and the wonderfully evocative nostalgia of the early eighties. Seldom do books leave such a lasting impression on my mind but I couldn't get this story out of my head for days and days after finishing it. I look forward greatly to the next book by this provocotive writer. The reading was perfect.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kaggy
  • 19-02-2016

Superb debut. Original and fresh

Kate Meaney is a young girl with a vivid imagination and a dogged determination to be a junior detective. She has her monkey assistant, all the necessary stationery and has already started her fledgling business by keeping an eye on neighbour’s houses and tracking suspicious characters in the local shopping centre.

Twenty years on, Kate is now a distant memory. A child who went missing without explanation and who therefore left behind an unresolved mystery.

The story focuses on a shopping centre built in the eighties on a brownfield site on the outskirts of town. The shop workers bear the brunt of over-enthused managers bombarding them with pseudo working practices, mystery shoppers bearing checklists of unreasonable expectations, and customers with a range of bizarre and sometimes hilarious requests. In their turn the customers are simmering cauldrons of frustration and confusion and some are just plain baffled by a life where technology has advanced beyond their understanding and still want their music supplied on singles and cassettes. The scenes played out by the various characters prove that Catherine O’Flynn clearly has a huge talent for both comedy and pathos. I laughed out loud at her description of a butcher who arranged his meat display into a cheery but gruesome mural and ached with sympathy for the boy who fell under suspicion and was thus ostracised by the town and his family.

Anybody who spends time in shopping malls will feel a tug of recognition when listening to this. What is so very clever is the way the author plucks out a warm and humane story out of a sterile environment and resolves the mystery in such an original way. The narration is first class and a great credit to this wonderful book. For goodness sake, don't let it pass you by.

2 people found this helpful

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