Everything you have heard or read about S.J. Bolton is true. Though her previous novel, DEAD SCARED, could be considered her breakthrough work, garnering a mantle-full of awards, she has demonstrated that she is incapable of writing badly. She brings a dark literary style to the table while occasionally breaking storytelling rules in such a gentle manner that you barely notice until you’re past the point of no return and hear the sound of the structure breaking beneath you. Bolton utilizes her numerous storytelling skills once again to great effect in LOST, her sixth work overall and the third in the Lacey Flint canon, her best work to date.
"The last 40 pages or so may well be some of the most suspenseful passages you will read this year, a perfect ending to the relentless build-up that precedes them."
LOST opens a somewhat short time after the events in DEAD SCARED, with Lacey, a London detective constable, on extended medical leave. Lacey, who was somewhat damaged goods to begin with, is in counseling but losing her tenuous grip on the here and now by degrees. Her squad, meanwhile, is dealing with a series of abductions and murders of pre-adolescent boys around London. Barney Roberts, a 10-year-old boy living next door to Lacey, has become secretly obsessed with the case, charting the particulars of the victims, their disappearances, and the subsequent tragic discoveries of their bodies, putting into play his uncanny powers of deduction and observation that are sharpened and honed to a degree far beyond what one might expect for a person his age.
Barney and Lacey, already in geographical proximity to one another, gravitate toward each other in the manner in which lost or damaged souls often do. So it is that when Barney, in the course of doing some investigative work with a group of his friends, finds the body of another missing boy, he anonymously texts the information to Lacey. Lacey provides the information to her squad-mates but keeps Barney out of it, an omission that causes her no end of difficulty and even casts the shadow of suspicion upon her to some degree.
As the story unfolds, a literal cavalcade of suspects is presented, any one of whom --- from Barney’s boring but mysterious father to a teacher at Barney’s school and, indeed, Barney himself, with a number of individuals in between --- could be the culprit who is kidnapping young boys, seemingly at will, and leaving them to be found days later. Lacey is drawn into the investigation unofficially, partially due to her concern for Barney and otherwise because it’s what she does. She is nowhere near ready to come back to work, though, and as events demonstrate, her perceptions, however well intended they may be in their execution, are badly warped. As she races to save one life, her conclusions, if incorrect, may result not only in the death of another abduction victim but also her own as well.
Lacey Flint is a painfully believable character who remains sympathetic, admirable and heroic in the truest sense of the word. It is difficult to say if she will be able to recover completely from the damage done to her, yet she perseveres. Bolton’s portrayal of Lacey gives the reader an unflinching view of a tragically flawed soul, one that is stark and real to the extreme. At the same time, the author never sacrifices story or style. The last 40 pages or so may well be some of the most suspenseful passages you will read this year, a perfect ending to the relentless build-up that precedes them. Bolton, who from her first book has been meeting and exceeding her own promise, never lets her reader down, and with LOST continues her upward trajectory.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 7, 2013