Nancy Taylor Rosenberg writes thrillers, and I’ve read a few. They’re generally in the “beach read” category for me… I don’t expect a lot of character development or subtlety, but a fast-moving plot and lots of action makes up for it. This one features Judge Lily Forrester, the protagonist from her 2009 book, The Cheater.
My Lost Daughter suffers a bit, in my estimation, from the overdone “evil money-grubbing fraudulent psych/rehab hospital” theme. Back in the 1990s, psychiatric hospitals and substance abuse facilities were accused of – and some actually were seen to be guilty of – scooping up teenagers still on their parents’ insurance plans for a full-freight 28-day psych program. So panicky parents commit the occasional pot-using high schooler. You’re not hearing about this today for a good reason. For better or worse, insurance coverage is a lot tighter for inpatient programs.
Plus, the main character is savvy. She’s over 50. She’s been around the block a time or two. The idea that she’d be so easily fooled is hard to swallow. Still, I was ready to overlook that clunky plotting.
What really got me was the backstory and the way Rosenberg presented it. The “daughter” of the title is now an adult, in her last year of law school, and suffering from long-standing difficulties related to a childhood trauma. In the past, Judge Lily Forrester and her daughter Shana were held captive and assaulted by a felon, who subsequently eluded capture. The recounting of this episode is lengthy, featuring a vicious rape of the 12-year-old girl, told from her mother’s perspective as she tries to distract the assailant, hears her daughter’s cries and holds her hand as the girl’s underwear is torn away and the man forces himself inside her. “Oh, Mommy. Oh, Mommy,” Shana gasped.
It’s graphic and it’s unnecessary. Some critics say you should never hurt a child or a pet, and I think that rule is unnecessarily strict. However, if the plot requires that a child be hurt, must the reader be forced to dwell on it? Others might disagree with me, but I found it distasteful. Given that Rosenberg is pretty free with the sex scenes and her older protagonist is still plenty hot with a young lover and risky sex , it felt like she was aiming more for titillation than character exposition.
I skipped ahead through the book to see how the plot turned out and put it aside. I don’t give up on many books, and Rosenberg is a “name” author – well-known and on the NYT best-seller list. But I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss much.