Little Girl Lost


Richard Aleas


Mystery / Thriller


Date Reviewed:

August 10, 2022

read Five Decembers and I liked it pretty well. Five Decembers was published by Hard Case Crime, a publishing company that specializes in stories of tough-talking private eyes, crime capers and femme fatales. Some of the books it publishes are classics from years ago, from authors such as Ed McBain, Erle Stanley Gardner or Donald E. Westlake. Some of its publications are new stories written by authors working today. The complete list of Hard Case Crime fiction is at that link. Since I enjoyed Five Decembers, I selected another book from Hard Case Crime's offerings. I chose Little Girl Lost because it was nominated for the 2005 Edgar Award.

John Blake is a private investigator, the junior partner in a two-man operation headed by Leo Hauser, an ex-policeman. Blake reads in the newspaper that a stripper named Miranda Sugarman was murdered on the rooftop of a strip joint called the Sin Factory. The picture of the dead woman in the newspaper is the face of his girlfriend back when he was in high school. After high school, Miranda had gone off to college in California to become a doctor and Blake lost all contact with her - so how is it that Miranda ended up dead in a seedy strip joint? Leo warns Blake not to get involved - if he does investigate, he surely won't like what he discovers. Wise words from a veteran, but off course Blake ignores them and heads off to the Sin Factory to begin asking questions.

I liked Little Girl Lost. The depictions of the grimy strip clubs and the thugs who hang out there, the slimy club managers, the indifferent bartender, the desperate hopeless girls - it is all written in convincing manner. (I don't actually know anything about strip clubs, but the Aleas convinced me that his descriptions rang true.) Blake runs into some sinister, dangerous lowlifes, and he takes a quite a few lumps from violent thugs. I hope that there are no real live creeps comparable to the "small time" gangster Murco Khachadurian. There is brutal violence, there are ugly threats. There are also lots of puzzles for Blake to sort out. Whenever he gets some answers, it just leads to more questions.

Little Girl Lost is a quick read, it is just 221 pages in the paperback edition I read. The writing style is clearly meant to evoke the pulpy detective novels of yester year, and it succeeds in that goal. The story is told in first person, so we are witnesses to Blake's thoughts as he sifts through the clues. (There is a surprise twist at the end, which I actually guessed before Blake figured it out, so I felt clever!). The ending of the novel certainly was not at all what I was expecting.

I see Richard Aleas also wrote Songs of Innocence, which won the 2008 Shamus Award for best original paperback novel. I will have to see if I can track that down. Otherwise, I will check what other Hard Case Crime novels are at our library.