Onyx reviews: lost
boy lost girl by Peter Straub
lost boy lost girl is Peter Straub's first solo novel since Mr.
X. It comes
on the heels of Black House, co-written with Stephen King in 2001 and a
superficial description of some of it's elements—missing children, a sinister
house and a Wisconsin town being terrorized by a serial killer—might lead
readers to think that it is somehow related to that collaboration.
The element of slippage introduced in Black House is present here, a connection
between the known world and something inexplicable that lies beyond. Straub's
fictional Millhaven, a thinly disguised Milwaukee, is familiar territory, having
been featured in three previous novels collectively known as the Blue
Rose books. Though they do have some characters and events in common,
these books aren't a series, per se. There is a distorted fiction versus reality
relationship among them, with author Tim Underhill at the center. Some seem to
relate events from his life; others seem to have been written by him.
Tim's younger brother Philip never escaped Millhaven's grip or his older
brother's shadow. He's so self-absorbed and concerned about his social status
that he's unaware that his family is disintegrating. His wife is a lost girl
with family skeletons no one ever discusses. Echoes of her past put her under
intense emotional strain, leading to her suicide. Only their son Mark—who
found the body—was aware that his mother was breaking down, but he didn't know
what to do about it.
Tim returns to Millhaven for his sister-in-law's funeral and again shortly after
Mark disappears. He had started a tentative e-mail relationship with his nephew
in the weeks after the funeral. Tim believes that Mark has a good, tender heart
despite seeming troubled, restless and unfocused.
The police think Mark may be the next victim of the Sherman Park Killer. Tim
seeks the assistance of his eccentric and reclusive detective friend Tom Pasmore
(featured in Mystery). They learn that Mark had recently become obsessed with a
mysterious house that has a sinister history. The abandoned house isn't shrouded
by darkness in a remote location—it's in the middle of a residential street,
ignored by neighbors as if it no longer existed. The man who keeps the lawn
mowed does so with his eyes averted from the building.
Tim and Pasmore also learn that there may be another lost girl whose past is
inextricably linked to Mark's disappearance. A girl so lost that few people even
knew she existed.
lost boy lost girl is a brief 280 pages, but it's packed with surreal imagery.
The story interweaves the present—Tim's investigation—with the recent past,
from the time Mark notices the eerily seductive house, his mother's subsequent
death and the events leading up to his disappearance. It blends third person
narrative perspective with Tim's journal entries, offering different levels of
Horrible things happened in the now-abandoned house, evil committed by very real
men. But the house—which is a house within a house—may also be a portal to a
world next door where lost boys and lost girls can find happiness; perhaps to
one of those thin places where the world's invisible engine can sometimes be
Straub shines new light on the basic components that he and King used for Black
House. The book offers no pat answers, though, and the mystery extends beyond
Tom Pasmore's impressive investigative skills. As Tim Underhill writes in one of
his novels, what's at stake here is the solidity of the world itself.
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