The Lost Children (Detective Lucy Harwin #1) by Helen Phifer

Lost ChildrenFor decades, The Moore Asylum was home to the forgotten children of Brooklyn Bay. But ever since a scandal forced its closure, the abandoned building has cast an imposing shadow. Until now – when an elderly man is found dead, his body strapped to an ancient gurney…

Detective Lucy Harwin, still reeling from a previous case that ended in the devastating murder of a mother and her child, finds herself on the trail of a killer ruthlessly fixated on avenging the asylum’s wrongs.

What disturbing secrets lie within the asylum’s walls? Together with her partner Detective Mattie Jackson, Lucy begins to unearth its terrible history, and the horrors endured by the vulnerable children.

As the attacks escalate and a woman is murdered on her own doorstep, Lucy is forced into a terrifying game of cat and mouse with a twisted individual. But can Lucy stop a murderer with nothing left to lose?


The Lost Children by Helen Phifer begins with a scene at an asylum in 1975. The setting is atmospheric and dark and you can just tell that something sinister is about to occur. This asylum is a place where kids are taken if they are deemed to be unfit to be in general society. There are kids who have committed horrible crimes who have been locked up there. However, there are others with illnesses and disabilities that are also locked up.  The doctors and nurses at the asylum are portrayed as being very cruel.

We soon get back to the present with a murder at the asylum. Just from this murder, it becomes clear that the setting is the key to unlocking the mystery behind the crime. In addition, the killer’s MO is bizarre hence providing another clue to the mystery. The chapters shift between present and past explaining what happened in the asylum in the 70s. It then takes us back to the investigation as we follow Detective Lucy Harwin as she tries to understand what happened then and its connection to the present. The pressure to solve the case escalates when the bodies start to pile up.

I think what I liked most about this book was the protagonist, DI Lucy. I liked how she was intuitive and determined to solve the case despite her own demons. She had a family that had fallen apart and a previous case that continued to haunt her. She is a fighter though. I also really liked her relationship with her colleague Mattie. The two had a great relationship. The kind of friendship that I admire. They had each other’s back and it was nice watching them work together. The characters in this book felt real and relatable.

This book is fast-paced with well-developed characters which made it an interesting read. However, I don’t think that there were any twists that surprised me. We got to know the villain pretty early in the case and I guess I kept hoping that there was a twist. Maybe the obvious villain would end up being innocent? However, there were no surprises in that regard. I did like the final chapters though with the heightened tension. It felt like we were running out of time and I kept turning the pages quickly to find out how it would all end. The book had alternating POVs with a few dark chapters narrated by the killer. The narration style and shifting timelines worked well in this book.

I think that this book will appeal to fans of cop procedural or crime thrillers. This detective series is off to a promising start. I can’t wait to see how it goes and I hope to see Mattie and Lucy Harwin again soon.

15 thoughts on “The Lost Children (Detective Lucy Harwin #1) by Helen Phifer

  1. I like that you were able to enjoy it despite the “easy” feeling of the case without any real surprise and that the characters made up for it by being very interesting and well-crafted! Great review!

  2. This sounds like a fantastic read – love the setting and the earlier time period and the fact that it almost crosses the sub-genres of crime fiction has me convinced that it is one I will enjoy.

  3. Great review! Looks like I might have missed out by not requesting this one… A powerful ending and interesting characters can definitely make up for the lack of surprising plot twists.

  4. How many books are in this series? Based on the PI’s past, it sounds like this is not the first book in the series. I’m not sure that this book would be for me…the plot in the Goodreads description sounded weirdly complicated, though when you gave your own synopsis it sounded less so. I do like that two women work together on a police squad. It sounds like this book would pass The Bechdel Test: a story that features two women or more women who talk about something other than men.

    1. Actually the second detective was male, he was called Mattie so it was Lucy and Mattie but they had a good friendship going on.The book is the first in the series although the author does provide detailed background on the MCs. Its interesting though dark.

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