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Lost You


Lost You

It is every parent’s worst nightmare. A sweet, three-and-a-half-year-old little boy walks ahead of his mother onto an elevator, and she watches the doors close on him before she can get on. For a brief period of time, he is missing, and the resort is scrambling to find their young guest. Libby Reese decided to take a much-needed vacation to Naples, FL with her son. But the trip awakens her deepest, darkest fears --- and Ethan's disappearance is just the start of this waking nightmare.

Haylen Beck introduces us to this incident near the beginning of his latest novel, LOST YOU. The opening takes us shortly beyond the previous scene I have described. Here, a strange woman --- claiming to be Ethan's actual mother --- is standing hand-in-hand with the child on the precipice of the resort, seven stories above the ground. Well before the hostage negotiator can arrive, the head of security does all he can to talk the woman off the ledge. At the very least, he tries to convince her to put the boy down on more solid ground. The scene ends with the woman taking a step into the open air --- and leaves you hanging.

"The plot twists and occasionally turns in unexpected directions, which makes LOST YOU such an entertaining read."

If you take what I just outlined at face value, it appears easy to determine the innocent party, the hero and the villain. However, Beck is just displaying his mastery of plot twists and edge-of-the-seat suspense that flows through this entire novel like a bullet from a high-powered rifle. Readers will find themselves doubting what they thought they knew and switching moral allegiance many times. This is actually the second time in as many weeks that I read a book that has depicted two mothers in a morally ambiguous situation and made it near impossible to root for or against either one. I am referring to Alex Dahl’s terrific Nordic psychological thriller, THE HEART KEEPER.

Libby and her husband, Mason, had been trying for years to have a child. They hear about an adoption broker in New York City that guarantees success. The agency finds young women who, for a nice price, agree to be a surrogate for parents in the situation that Libby and Mason are in --- a much quicker solution than playing the waiting game with a “legitimate adoption.” The novel jumps back in time four years to watch these circumstances play out all the way to the present.

In the past we see a young woman, Anna Lenihan, who does not have much going on and clearly will be motivated by money. It is Anna who is approached by Mr. Novak, an employee of the adoption broker, who promises her $75,000 to become a surrogate for parents who are unable to have a child any other way. She accepts the offer, as Mr. Novak is not only quite intimidating but also cunningly persuasive.

As Anna is going through pregnancy, she begins to experience the emotional roller coaster that often accompanies that condition. She lovingly places her hand on her stomach and speaks to the child she is convinced is a boy and has nicknamed “Little Butterfly.” This explains why the book’s cover depicts what appears to be a ceramic butterfly statue broken into a myriad of colorful pieces. This is a very effective image as many lives are going to shatter before everything plays out.

Anna, in the last stages of her pregnancy, changes her mind about the surrogate role and decides she needs to keep this child. She firmly believes that he is hers, and nothing or nobody can take him away from her. Mr. Novak, acting on behalf of his shady agency, decides to confront Anna, but things do not go well.

The plot twists and occasionally turns in unexpected directions, which makes LOST YOU such an entertaining read. Haylen Beck, the pseudonym for popular Irish writer Stuart Neville, shows off all of his writing tricks here and has delivered a dark and surprising psychological thriller in the process.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on August 16, 2019

Lost You
by Haylen Beck