On the first day of Schueberfouer in Luxembourg a young girl goes missing.

The annual funfair held in the heart of the city on the Glacis square is an important event so local police are keen to downplay the disappearance of seventeen year old Ellie Scheen. Last seen boarding the Ferris Wheel with two young strangers, Ellie has a difficult relationship with her mother Bridget who is sent into a state of panic and despair by these events. A British woman called Cate Austin who is the mother of Amelia, a school friend of Ellie’s sister, offers support and reassurance to Bridget.

Cate, a former Probation Officer, becomes further entangled when her detective boyfriend Olivier Massard takes on the case.

Fearing that the Luxembourg police (and her boyfriend in particular) are not taking the disappearance as seriously as they should be, she finds herself pursuing her own investigations. Beneath the picture postcard image of Luxembourg, Cate soon finds a darker reality of people trafficking, illegal immigrants, prostitution and organised crime. Cate also knows that investigating the case against Olivier’s wishes could shatter her own idyllic new lifestyle with him but is compelled by her conscience to continue. Author Ruth Dugdall skilfully contrasts the lives and concerns of the Europeans at the heart of her story with that of illegal immigrant workers such as the young teenager Amina who has been sent to Luxembourg by her family from North Africa. Only hoping for a better life and the opportunity to help her family Amina works as a virtual slave in a local beauty salon without pay and unable even to leave the building. Amina’s appalling position is made even worse due to the fact that she cannot safely return home for fear of the retribution of her Jihadist brother Samir.

This is the fourth novel by author Ruth Dugdall featuring probation officer Cate Austin. Tackling themes and issues that seem incredibly topical and relevant Nowhere Girl shines a light on to some of Europe’s most worrying, frightening and sordid problems. Sensitive in her handling of such emotive and controversial material, Dugdall creates a story that feels credible and at times sickeningly real as well as bringing a strongly female perspective to her plot and characters.

Intelligent, astute and well researched Nowhere Girl takes an unflinching look at the ugly truth behind the European dream.

Nowhere Girl

Ruth Dugdall

Legend Press, £8.99, 9781910394632

Giles Morgan

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