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Thursday 5 February 2015

‘The Moon Pool’ by Sophie Littlefield

Published by Head of Zeus,
20 October 2014.
ISBN: 9781781856840 (HB)

Sometimes crime novel are just that: novels which chart the investigation of a crime and the triumph of the good guys over the villains. And sometimes they’re a lot more than that.

The Moon Pool is Sophie Littlefield’s seventeenth novel, but her first with a British publisher – and what a UK debut it is! It’s certainly a crime novel, though not in the conventional sense; the only death is an accident, and the bad guys are big oil corporations who value profit over the safety and welfare of their employees. But it’s also a great deal more.

Colleen is a wealthy middle-class housewife from New England; Shay is a survivor from California who has lived most of her life battling to make ends meet. They are thrown together midway between their homes because each has a son who has gone missing. Both boys came to North Dakota to work for an oil company in a town which has mushroomed as a result of the oil boom; both disappeared on the same day. The company, the police and just about everyone else they talk to simply aren’t interested.

At the heart of the narrative lies the growth of an uneasy, see-sawing relationship between them as they follow a trail of clues, and by the end of the book I felt I knew both women as well as my neighbours. Another great strength is the way Littlefield brings the town to life, so that it’s almost another character in its own right: constant noise and traffic; restaurants and hypermarkets operating 24/7 to meet the huge demand; makeshift accommodation people pay a small fortune for, because there isn’t halfway enough to go round; the biting North Dakota winter, which affects everything the women attempt.

The plot is on the simple side. Mostly it’s Colleen’s and Shay’s story, but a scattering of chapters shifts the focus to a young native American boy who is clearly connected to them in some way, and knows more than he’s telling. Suffice to say all the threads knit together before the end.

Mainly The Moon Pool is a novel about human nature, and different ways in which people take advantage of each other. I found myself disliking both women, and at the same time desperately wanting their sons to be found, and safe. Above all, I ached to know what had happened, and whether David could defeat Goliath and the oil company could be made to pay for its sins.

Now that Sophie Littlefield’s work has found a market in the UK, she will surely grow into a respected and acclaimed novelist. If The Moon Pool is in any way typical, she deserves that and more.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

 Sophie Littlefield grew up in rural Missouri, the middle child of a professor and an artist. She has been writing stories since childhood. After taking a hiatus to raise her children, she sold her first book in 2008, and has since authored over a dozen novels in several genres. Sophie's novels have won Anthony and RT Book Awards and been shortlisted for Edgar, Barry, Crimespree, Macavity, and Goodreads Choice Awards. In addition to women's fiction, she writes the post-apocalyptic AFTERTIME series, the Stella Hardesty and Joe Bashir crime series, and thrillers for young adults. She is a past president of the San Francisco Romance Writers of America chapter. Sophie makes her home in northern California.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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