"There is nothing more overrated in the practice of criminal law than the truth." So begins the first chapter of Lost Girls
, Andrew Pyper's highly acclaimed debut novel. As the story opens, that maxim is embodied by its main character, Bartholomew Crane, an amoral, cocaine-abusing defence lawyer. His drive to win seems less a matter of competition or ego than some sort of neurotic imperative. Crane's unsavoury bosses, Lyle, Gederov, and Associate, (or Lie, Get 'Em Off, and Associate, as the joke goes), hand him his first murder trial, a grotesque case involving the disappearance of two schoolgirls in Northern Ontario. The accused is the doomed girls' English teacher, who recently ended up on the losing end of a custody battle involving his young daughter. When Crane arrives in Murdoch, Ontario, he finds his client, one Thomas Tripp, either unable or unwilling to cooperate. He must then contend with a variety of strange and very suspicious townsfolk as he attempts to unearth the facts himself. His discovery of the town's dark legend unleashes Crane's own demons, causing him to lose track of reality and the case and sending him down an unfamiliar path: a search for the truth.
Pyper's legal background brings authenticity to the story, but his real gift is for language. Beginning with its remarkably seductive prologue, Lost Girls is far more beautifully written than your average crime story. A national bestseller and a Globe and Mail Best Book of 1999, Lost Girls established Pyper as one of Canada's literary stars. --Moe Berg
From Publishers Weekly
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)
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