High in his attic bedroom, 12-year-old David mourns the loss of his mother. He is angry and he is alone, with only the books on his shelf for company.But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness, and as he takes refuge in the myths and fairytales so beloved of his dead mother, he finds that the real world and the fantasy world have begun to meld. The Crooked Man has come, with his mocking smile and his enigmatic words: “Welcome, your majesty. All hail the new king.”
With echoes of Gregory Maguire’s and C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, author John Connolly introduces us to a cast of not-quite-familiar characters – like the seven socialist dwarfs who poison an uninvited (and unpleasant) princess and try to peg the crime on her stepmother. Or the Loups, the evil human-canine hybrids spawned long ago by the union of a wolf and a seductive girl in a red cloak.
As war rages across Europe, David is violently propelled into a land that is both a construct of his imagination, yet frighteningly real – a strange reflection of his own world composed of myths and stories, populated by wolves and worse-than-wolves, and ruled over by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a legendary book…The Book of Lost Things.
Fairy tale turned fantasy turned horror. Yikes! I’ve read Charlie Parker, his signature detective/mystery series, and those narratives could turn dark, paranormal, deadly. But this one?
The storyline starts with twelve-year-old David and his newly minted step-mother (Rose) and half-brother. In an effort to avoid those two as much as possible, he pretty much sequesters himself in his room, burying himself in his books. His dad, a professional, is seldom around.
In an effort to improve the situation, Rose moves him to another room, vacated by an old uncle that is filled with books and baubles. But as time wears on, the fables, fantasies, and childhood tales begin to fuse with reality. Indeed, he loses himself more into the dream lately, which is becoming darker—there is, after all, a war on.
Definitely not a tale for children—and possibly not queasy-stomached adults either. Beginning with “The Crooked Man,” the characters grow into malevolent beings, many of which are not human.
Locked into a noir fairy tale, he must travel (as Dorothy did) to find the king who has the Book of Lost Things. Only then can he be returned home—to reality—and out of his marathon nightmare.
Fortunately, there is a kind and wise woodsman, but he must fight his own battles and is not keen on taking on the care of a young one. At each encounter, David must learn to conquer or out-think the creepy folk horror confronting him—most with the aid of the experienced woodsman.
Ewww, some of the descriptions were almost vomit-inducing encounters. Talk about a learning experience—enough to grow hair on the chest of a child. And he does gradually mature, begins to evaluate with a new reality or philosophy, and challenges appearances. My favorite quote:
“…listen closely to his words for he will say less than he means and conceal more than he reveals.”
Beautiful! And that’s the lesson is it? The story is as shocking as revealing, pushes tension, attitude, with awakening. Extremely imaginative, creative in prose, subtle in nuance—but oh, so, powerful (I’m sure enhanced by the narrator).
I downloaded a copy of this audiobook from my local well-stocked library. Perhaps periodic issues of too bloody violence for me. These are my honest thoughts.
Genre: Coming of Age Fiction, Suspense
Publisher: Recorded Books
Listening Length: 10 hrs 56 mins
Narrator: Steven Crossley
Publication Date: October 23, 2008
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Book of Lost Things [Amazon]
Rosepoint Publishing: Four Stars
The Author: I was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1968 and have, at various points in his life, worked as a journalist, a barman, a local government official, a waiter and a “gofer” at Harrods department store in London. I studied English in Trinity College, Dublin and journalism at Dublin City University, subsequently spending five years working as a freelance journalist for The Irish Times newspaper, to which I continue to contribute, although not as often as I would like. I still try to interview a few authors every year, mainly writers whose work I like, although I’ve occasionally interviewed people for the paper simply because I thought they might be quirky or interesting. All of those interviews have been posted to my website, http://www.johnconnollybooks.com.
I was working as a journalist when I began work on my first novel. Like a lot of journalists, I think I entered the trade because I loved to write, and it was one of the few ways I thought I could be paid to do what I loved. But there is a difference between being a writer and a journalist, and I was certainly a poorer journalist than I am a writer (and I make no great claims for myself in either field.) I got quite frustrated with journalism, which probably gave me the impetus to start work on the novel. That book, Every Dead Thing, took about five years to write and was eventually published in 1999. It introduced the character of Charlie Parker, a former policeman hunting the killer of his wife and daughter. Dark Hollow, the second Parker novel, followed in 2000. The third Parker novel, The Killing Kind, was published in 2001, with The White Road following in 2002. In 2003, I published my fifth novel – and first stand-alone book – Bad Men. In 2004, Nocturnes, a collection of novellas and short stories, was added to the list, and 2005 marked the publication of the fifth Charlie Parker novel, The Black Angel. In 2006, The Book of Lost Things, my first non-mystery novel, was published.
I am based in Dublin but divide my time between my native city and the United States, where each of my novels has been set.
©2023 V Williams