Published in 2007, it won the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards for best first novel. And I can certainly see why.
It is set in Ireland, in a small development outside of Dublin. Our protagonist, Adam Robert Ryan, at age twelve, along with his two BFFs, lives in the partially completed housing development, surrounded by a substantial and old wood. The three friends spend many a happy day using the wood as their personal playground. That is, until one day, the three disappear, and only Adam is eventually found, standing against a tree, catatonic and mute. Eventually after a couple of weeks, he speaks, but has lost all memory of anything before that time. He remembers nothing of the disappearance, and nothing of his previous life. He is sent away to boarding school in England, to remove him from the situation of curious and or suspicious neighbors, where he acquires an education and a posh British accent, and his parents soon move far away also, in great part because as his mother explains, she can’t bear to see the pain of the two families whose children were never found.
Fast forward twenty years. Adam, now known as Rob, is a detective with the Murder squad of the Irish Police, and is essentially pleased with his life. He has a fine partner, Cassie, they are great friends, and work well together, and no one knows his history. He finally reveals it to Cassie.
And then it happens: the two are sent to a murder scene at an archeological site at Knocknaree, the small town where Rob grew up. There, displayed on a Bronze age stone altar, is the body of a 12-year old girl with her head bashed in. This ignites queries as to whether this is connected in some way to the disappearance twenty years ago of the other two young people. This in turn sets off the unraveling of Rob’s carefully structured psyche, but he does not take himself off the case, keeping his secret, because he hopes to uncover some memories of either the incident or of his life before that time.
An intricate, carefully plotted tale of the workings of the mind, and the workings of the police. I loved it. It is one of my all-time favorite police procedural detective stories.