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Rayne, Sarah - 'House of the Lost'
Hardback: 416 pages (Feb. 2010) Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd ISBN: 1847373321

HOUSE OF THE LOST is simply awesome! Sarah Rayne weaves her magic once again and the result is yet another fantastically written book that you just can't put down. Be prepared to stay up late with this one. Also be prepared to be rather disturbed by part of the storyline.

As has been the way with her other books, Rayne has carefully divided HOUSE OF THE LOST into two main threads: one in the past and one in the present. The present is very much haunted by the events in the past and the way the two stories are interlaced makes the book even more exciting. Rayne has this rare skill of being able to conjure such a clear image with her words that the descriptions of the dark shadow knocking on the window, for example, or the echoing footsteps upstairs in the supposedly deserted house make you feel ever so slightly terrified and very aware of the uncomfortable prickles of hairs raising on the back of your neck as you read. This book has the potential to keep you awake at night, listening for noises in your own house. The powerful presence and awareness of ghosts and strange energies in all of Rayne's books to date are part of the reason that they are so very appealing.

In brief, Theo Kendal, the central character, has been bequeathed Fenn House, a beautiful yet dilapidated rambling old building in the Norfolk Fens, after the murder of his cousin, Charmery, its owner. Shell-shocked by his loss, his initial thoughts are to sell the place but he then decides to go and live in it for a while, in an attempt to come to terms with things and also finish writing his latest book. Right from when he first enters the house things seem very strange. First, he is hit very hard by a vivid vision of a scared young boy, who is unwilling to enter the house in the dark, then 'something' seems to take over his mind from nowhere and a completely new story forms in front of him on the pc screen. A little background reading shocks Theo as he realizes the characters he is inventing are real people and he watches their story unfold, helpless to do anything but write. The story being written is the 'past' thread in the tale and it centres on the life of Matthew - a young boy growing up in Romania in the 1970s and 1980s,at the time when the Ceausescu Regime was at its most brutal. Matthew's mother disappeared many years ago, then his father and close friend do the same, leaving him alone and scared but ever hopeful that his father will keep his promise and return to him one day.

The 'present' thread in the book tells us about Theo, his relationship with his family and Charmery and the mysterious things going on around him in Fenn House. He makes friends with the local GP, as well as the nuns in the local convent, and tries to unravel the mysteries both around Charmery's death and the ghostly presence he can feel in the house. Without giving too much away, all I will tell you is that not everybody is as they seem.

HOUSE OF THE LOST has plenty of twists and turns in its utterly absorbing plot and it is way too easy to read it far too quickly. There are no nasty surprises at the very end of the book - plenty of those keep hitting you in the face all the way through - and everything is tied up to give a most satisfactory conclusion. HOUSE OF THE LOST is by far the best book I have read this year. Sarah Rayne always has me on the edge of my seat.

Amanda Gillies, Scotland
June 2010

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 13/06/2010 10:44