Title: Lost Girls
Author: Andrew Pyper
Release date: April 13th, 2000
It’s interesting how time and knowledge can seemingly shape or adjust how you read or experience a book.
‘The Demonologist’ was my first experience by Andrew Pyper. Shortly thereafter, ‘The Damned.’ Two of the darkest most haunting books Andrew has released. For me, back then, I had discovered a new-to-me horror author. A writer who wrote International Best-selling novels, but novels that were just as dark and bleak as anything by King, but also as gruesome and disturbing as any of the late night movies I used to stay up and watch.
Over the years, I’ve read the rest of Andrew’s books (as some of you may be aware of! HA!) and I’ve loved seeing the worlds he’s created and the heart-pounding situations we, as readers, get thrown into.
But oddly, it wasn’t until I was knee deep in researching his work for an interview I did with him earlier this year, that it even occurred to me that Pyper wasn’t considered a ‘horror writer’ by a large section of the reading population.
In fact – for many out there – Andrew Pyper is a crime-thriller author who has supernatural elements to his work. Thinking about this really threw me for a loop. I don’t actively seek out crime books (which is funny now considering) and crime fiction often doesn’t really excite me to think about reading it (which is double funny considering I have some work out there that could be described as crime-fiction based), yet here I am constantly gushing over ‘The Killing Circle,’ Andrew’s 2008 crime-thriller.
So it was, that diving into my re-read of ‘Lost Girls,’ that I found myself smiling at the reality of reading a book that is centered around a lawyer, a crime and a court case.
It has been some time since I’d read ‘Lost Girls,’ but I was excited for this re-read for so many reasons. To re-introduce myself to Andrew’s very first book was invigorating. He’d released a short-story collection prior, but that was straight forward fiction with no supernatural undercurrents. No, this was the first book Andrew had released, which won awards and resulted from his agent at the time contacting him to represent him. When he said he didn’t have a book, she said “you will,” and the rest is history.
What I liked: The story of ‘Lost Girls’ itself is simply. Bartholomew Crane is an up-and-coming, hotshot lawyer in Toronto. In a small town in northern Ontario, two teen girls go missing, presumed dead, and one of their teachers is accused of killing them. This teacher, Thomas Tripp, hires the law firm Crane works at to represent him and in turn the case is given to Crane.
But Murdoch, Ontario has a secret, something it longs to keep hidden, even if it keeps coming to the surface.
The prologue sets the stage here and it was interesting to see a novel written twenty years ago read and feel just as vibrant and fresh as anything Andrew’s ever written. There are some noticeable time-period parts that wouldn’t hold up today (Barth has a cell phone but hardly uses it, more-so relying on left messages at the hotel lobby and there’s no usage of email or computers) but otherwise you know you’re immediately in an Andrew Pyper book from page one.
I loved the slow-unravelling of Barth throughout. As he began to feel the hooks of Murdoch lock in and things begin to not only make sense, but also reveal themselves to him. There are a few incredibly unnerving moments throughout, but nothing as unsettling as when Crane comes across the cabin deep in the woods that really does unlock those hidden memories. That moment is the mental climax, if you will, of Barth’s descent. The tipping point, where after that everything cascades rapidly and he goes from running-on-fumes-coke-addict to full on unstable and unhinged.
Funny enough, there’s a scene where Barth looks through his hotel window one evening, only to see two teen girls in flowing dresses waving and beckoning him to come down. He can’t control himself anymore. Why are they tormenting him? He heads down, only to have a close encounter with a truck. This actually offers up a moment where, from that point on, you could argue Barth was actually killed by the truck and everything after is a maddening descent into purgatory. Andrew denies this (I know, I asked! And usually he’s coy and says the readers will make up their own minds, but for this one he rejected that as never a thought he had) but it definitely darkens an already darkened story.
As soul-crushing as it was, I also loved Barth’s interactions with the locals, especially as he comes to realize that many of them know who he really is, but also seeing how much these two girls disappearing has affected the town. As though a ripple has slowly washed over every one.
This is a dark story, a slow burn, and one that grabs and doesn’t let go.
What I didn’t like: As I’ve mentioned, the story opens up with an anxiety-inducing prologue, but from there until some time in, it becomes a fairly straight-forward crime-thriller. If you’re wanting a book that is supernatural from start to finish, this won’t be it. Pyper takes his time setting up Crane’s spiral and I think the term slow-burner is very accurate.
Why you should buy this: If you’re a Pyper fan, you’ve most likely already read it, but if it’s been longer than five years, I’d suggest you dive back into the lake and see if the Lady holds up. I found everything about her unnerving, creepy and horrifying. A perfect antagonist that doesn’t arrive until necessary. If you’ve not read anything from Andrew, this would be an excellent spot to start and introduces his easy way of telling dark, haunting tales that’ll stay with you for many, many long sleepless nights.