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Lost Boy Lost Girl

by Peter Straub

Publishers Weekly For its high artistry and uncanny mix of dread and hope, Straub's 16th novel, his shortest in decades, reaffirms the author's standing as the most literate and, with his occasional coauthor Stephen King, most persuasive of contemporary novelists of the dark fantastic. This brilliant variation on the haunted house tale distills themes and characters from Straub's long career, including two of the author's most popular creations: Manhattan novelist Tim Underhill (from Koko, Mystery and The Throat) and Tim's friend, legendary private detective Tom Pasmore (from Mystery and The Throat). Written from multiple viewpoints, the narrative shuttles disturbingly through time and space as Tim travels home to Millhaven, Ill., to attend the funeral for his sister-in-law, a suicide. In that small city based loosely on Straub's hometown of Milwaukee, Tim spends time with his callow widowed brother, Philip, and his nephew, sensitive Mark, 15, who found his mother's naked body in the bathtub, wrists slit and a plastic bag over her head. Meanwhile, a serial killer is snatching teen boys from a local park, and Mark and his sidekick, Jimbo, begin to explore a nearby abandoned house. Mark grows obsessed with the house, eventually revealed as the rotting source of the evil that stalks Millhaven, but also as the harbor of a great marvel. When Mark disappears, Tim pursues his trail and, with Tom Pasmore's help, that of the serial killer who may have taken the boy away. Straub remains a master of place and character; his insight into teens, in particular, is astonishingly astute. His myriad narrative framings allow multiple interpretations of events, making this story work on many levels, yet they also increase the urgency of the story, up to its incandescent ending. With great compassion and in prose as supple as mink, Straub has created an exciting, fearful, wondrous tale about people who matter, in one of his finest books to date. 100,000 first printing; 6-city author tour. (Oct. 7) Forecast: Straub's last book, the King-coauthored Black House, hit #1 on bestseller lists. Readers will remember Black House and The Talisman, as well as Straub's earlier major solo bestsellers such as Ghost Story, Floating Dragon and Koko. The book's brevity may draw new readers, as should strong reviews and, down the road, inevitable award nomination. This title has the potential to be Straub's biggest seller in years. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Straub brings back his writer hero Tim Underhill (Koko; The Throat) in a lightweight, occult horror mystery involving a suicide and a missing nephew. The story involves not one but two Jeffrey Dahmer-like serial killers who prey on teenage boys. The point of view oscillates between Tim Underhill, the investigator, and Mark Underhill, the lost boy. There is a haunted house, some ghosts, creepy moments, and an unusual ending that uses supernatural email and web pages. Compared with Straub's other works of horror, this is something of a minor diversion, but it is bound to be popular. Recommended for public and university libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/03.]-Ken St. Andre, Phoenix P.L. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book list Once more, Straub employs the scene (Millhaven, Illinois) and the protagonists--'nam-vet novelist Tim Underhill and rich, super-attentive and -intuitive P.I. Tom Pasmore--of his hefty best-sellersoko (1988), Mystery (1989), and The Throat (1993). Relegating Pasmore to the secondary cast and using Tim as both first-person recorder of events and third-person general narrator, Straub explores two appalling tragedies. Tim's sister-in-law, Nancy, an appealing woman whom many pity for marrying ill-tempered Philip Underhill, kills herself for no apparent reason. Mere days later, Philip and Nancy's handsome 15-year-old, Mark, disappears. Since a serial killer has been "disappearing" middle-teen boys from the park in which Mark and his best friend,imbo, hung out nights, the worst is feared. With Pasmore working behind the scenes, Tim sets out to understand his two losses. Mostly, he must getimbo to reveal all that he knows. As he succeeds with the boy, Tim discovers that in the abandoned house across the alley from Philip and Nancy's are the keys to the puzzles of her death, Mark's vanishing, and other mysteries. Much of what Tim learns is hideous, but some of it points to transcendent redemption for Mark and a girl who disappeared long ago in even grislier circumstances. This is the great novel of the supernatural Straub has always had it in him to write, one as beautiful, moving, and spiritually rich as the best stories in his dazzling collections Houses without Doors (1990) and Magic Terror (2000). --Ray Olson Copyright 2003 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

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