Gripped by the intense opening of this novel, I was anticipating something like a reprise of Straub’s uber-eerie classic, ‘Ghost Story’.
‘Lost Boy, Lost Girl’ turned out not to be that – either in theme or in quality. It’s not a great Peter Straub novel, but it is a good one – and, as his fans will know, that’s enough to set it head and shoulders above most novels in this genre.
Long-standing Straub fans will also be intrigued by the appearance in this book of Tom Pasmore, a character from Straub’s ‘Mystery’, and by the author’s wholesale relocation of streets and places from the island of Mill Walk, that is the setting for ‘Mystery’, to the town of Millhaven in this novel. What is he up to? And what is this obsession with place names that start with Mill, anyway?
But to the story…It centres on Tim Underhill, a writer, and his teenage nephew, Mark, who has become obsessed with the house of a serial killer following the mysterious suicide of his mother. Events unfold through parallel narratives (one in the first person, from the point of view of Tim, the other written in the third person, focusing on Mark.) These threads interweave cleverly, although there is a drop in pace whenever the action switches to the misadventures of Mark and his best friend, Jimbo.
These twin points of view reveal the emotional complexities and deeply buried secrets revolving around the abandoned house with great detail and intensity, but one is left feeling that perhaps it has taken a lot of pages to account for relatively few actual events.
However, there is no doubting this Straub fella has a way with words, and there are some very creepy moments – like the reveal of why the rooms in the killer’s house look smaller than they should…
Good work from one of modern horror’s undoubted greats!