A 30-Year-Old Mystery Resurfaces


Father Gabriel is finally back at his beloved St. Mary’s Abbey. He wants to slip back into a quiet monastic life after several traumatic experiences. Yet again fate intervenes.

Missing, Presumed Lost: A Father Gabriel Mystery, by Fiorella De Maria, opens with Father Gabriel settling back into the Benedictine routine of St. Mary’s Abbey.  His tranquility is almost immediately disturbed by turmoil in the nearby Wiltshire village of Sutton Westford.

A local boy turned successful London developer, Joseph Beaumont, plans a set of houses at the village outskirts. The location is an abandoned mine, a village eyesore. He is opposed by a local opposition group led by Beaumont’s childhood nemesis, Stevie Wilcox. They fear the change modern housing might bring to their village. Opposition had gone beyond noisy protest to violent sabotage.

Then a skeleton is found buried at the construction site. It is that of an eight-year-old girl, Primrose Harding. She disappeared from the village in 1918, over 30 years ago. The autopsy reveals her head was bashed in. That leads to a murder investigation.

Father Gabriel lost his own daughter to violence when she was around the same age. He feels he cannot let things go and presses to join the investigation. Surprisingly, his old nemesis Inspector Applegate invites Gabriel’s participation. Applegate fears he will soon be called off investigating a case this cold. When that happens, it may be up to Father Gabriel to solve it himself.

The discovery haunts the village. It unlocks secrets the villagers hoped to keep forgotten, shames they wanted to keep hidden. The missing girl was disliked by many in the village, an odd child in a family that never fit into the village. She was treated shabbily when alive. Her reappearance reminds everyone of that. It is also obvious that some in the village knew of her death and concealed it. She was carefully buried by someone, which meant the action was deliberate.

The investigation also rakes up ghosts from Father Gabriel’s past, the death of his beloved daughter in a fire deliberately set by a burglar to conceal the killing of Father Gabriel’s wife during a robbery.

As with the rest of the Father Gabriel series, Missing, Presumed Lost is more than a simple mystery novel. It also explores greater themes, childhood innocence and society’s responsibility to protect the young. A satisfying mystery, it encourages readers to think about morality and guilt.

“Missing, Presumed Lost: A Father Gabriel Mystery,” by Fiorella De Maria, Ignatius Press, February 2024,‎ 269 pages, $17.95 (paperback), $11.67 (ebook)

This review was written by Mark Lardas, who writes at Ricochet as Seawriter. Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City, TX. His website is marklardas.com.

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  1. DaveSchmidt Coolidge

    FYI, I can’t buy another book.  However I am recommending it to my wife’s reading group. 

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