cover image Lost Girls

Lost Girls

Andrew Pyper. Delacorte Press, $23.95 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-385-33446-4

Toronto resident Pyper's spell-binding debut succeeds on so many levels--as a mystery, a legal thriller, a literary character study--that's it's obvious why it was a #1 bestseller last year in Canada. Breathing new life into a modern cliche, the lawyer in need of redemption, the narrator and proudly unlikable main character is do-anything-to-win Toronto attorney Bartholomew Crane, who is assigned the ""lost girls"" case by his firm, Lyle, Gederov (colloquially known as ""Lie, Get 'Em Off""). Two schoolgirls are missing and presumed drowned in Lake St. Christopher, in the outback of Murdoch, Ontario. The man accused of their murder is one of the girls' teachers, Thomas Tripp. Crane quickly discovers that Tripp is uncooperative and seemingly insane, blaming the girls' disappearance on the legendary ghost of a woman who drowned 50 years ago in the lake. Since there's little more than circumstantial evidence against Tripp, Crane is initially confident that he can get the man off. But that confidence dissolves as he immerses himself in the case and the history of the region. Pyper uses Crane's almost vicious self-awareness to chart the crumbling of his self-image as he binges on cocaine, goes stir-crazy in the rural town, and confronts a long-repressed tragedy from his past that bears on the case. As Crane's devastating history unfolds, it's revealed how he became such a shark; as he accepts the truth about himself and his desperate need to solve the mystery behind the ghost story, his fundamental character is illuminated-gradually, with the same restrained suspense that makes Pyper's ingeniously tight plotline so compulsively appealing. BOMC/QPB featured alternate. (May)