Sarah Stewart Taylor: A Stolen Child

Maggie D’Arcy #4

This is one of the strongest entries to date in Sarah Stewart Taylor’s Maggie D’Arcy series.  The first novel, The Mountains Wild, follows the grown Maggie, a detective on Long Island, as she goes back to Ireland to try and discover what happened to her cousin, who went missing years before.  She also reconnects with an old flame, and the next two books follow Maggie as she returns to Ireland on a case and tries to figure out what’s next in her life.  What’s next turns out to be Maggie giving up her job on Long Island, moving in with Conor, her old flame, and taking the class to restart her career as an Irish Guard.

When the novel opens, new Guard D’Arcy (called by the kids on her beat “American Guard”) and her partner are on patrol, when a bunch of kids tell them there’s a duck that’s fallen down a well.  The Make Way for Ducklings scene that follows establishes the partnership between Maggie and her fellow guard, gives a bit of a feel for the neighborhood, and sets a tone – Maggie and her fellow guard are decent officers, trying to do the right thing.

When they get a call out late in their shift that something’s off in an apartment they’d been called to a couple days before, they discover the young woman who lived there dead, and her two year old daughter missing.  Of course, nothing propels a story like a missing child, and what follows is an absolutely stellar, perfectly assembled police procedural.

The police procedural, to me, is the modern equivalent of the traditional detective novel in its purest incarnation.  While the techniques of police investigation are always a part of the story, as they are here, what really solves the case often turns out to be good old fashioned deductive reasoning combined with a gut instinct.  Maggie D’Arcy posses this skillset in spades.

As Maggie is just a patrol cop, she’s only called in on the case because the squad is shorthanded.  Because she’s worked for years as a full-fledged homicide detective, she’s frustrated, but the work she’s allowed to participate in finds her making some breakthroughs and it’s ultimately her instinct that does help to solve the case.  As a long time cop, her radar for liars is pretty strongly honed.

The working dynamic between her and the detective she encountered in the last novel is fun (for the reader), though for the two of them it’s more of a getting to know and trust the other situation.  Brilliant move on Stewart Taylor’s part to take this series back to a new origin story, something which always energizes a novel.

This book has a great and well told story that propels the book in a rocket powered fashion.  Maggie’s personal life is more back burner, the investigation more front and center.  It feels like a comfortable fit.  The illumination of Dublin and its various neighborhoods is exceptionally well done, and I really felt like I had a bird’s eye view.  This is an excellent read, one of my favorites of the year. — Robin Agnew