‘City of Lost Girls’ exposes allure of fame


“City of Lost Girls,” by Declan Hughes; Morrow; 304 pages; $24.99

Delcan Hughes’ tightly plotted novels chronicle the changes in his native Ireland, showing a country that has declined in just a few years from boom times to a depressed economy, like the rest of the world. Hughes’ other novels have touched on Irish politics, society and the IRA and, now in the intriguing “City of Lost Girls,” the movie industry.

The film industry’s economic impact and a few gentle jabs at famous Irish actors give “City of Lost Girls” deliver an insider’s glimpse of Ireland that will be new territory for most American readers. But Hughes’s fifth novel also shows the power and allure of fame, which for some is permission for bad behavior.

Charismatic movie director Jack Donovan is back filming in Dublin. He’s the kind of guy who seduces everyone with his personality – men want to be his friend, women want to sleep with him. He’ll sing Puccini arias in pubs, stay out all night and still produce a gripping movie. The film also will be good for Dublin whose economy has been “sucker-punched to its knees.”

But Irish private investigator Ed Loy isn’t that thrilled that Jack is back in town.

Ed and Jack were close friends when they both lived in Los Angeles. Ed was devoted to Jack and often would help the director break up with his girlfriends by bringing them expensive gifts and cash. But Ed walked out of Jack’s life 10 years ago after he found the director’s latest soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend beaten and battered. Now Jack wants Ed to find out who has been sending him a series of cryptic, threatening letters, which have coincided with the disappearance of three young women from the set. Ed remembers three female extras also went missing from one of Jack’s movie locations in L.A.

The pool of suspects centers on Jack and his faithful “Gang of Four” who have worked with him on each movie. Although the suspect list is small, Hughes maintains tension by delving into Jack’s messy personal affairs, which parallels the happy life that Ed has built with a woman and her two daughters.

Hughes briskly moves “City of Lost Girls” to a surprising finale while highlighting Ireland’s beauty and showing how fame is fleeting.