The Lost Ones was one of my highly anticipated books this Autumn so I am thrilled to be able to take part in HQ’s Halloween takeover and to share my review with you today. Thank you to Joe Thomas at HarperCollins UK for the invitation to take part and my gifted copy of the book.
Some houses are never at peace.
Reeling from the death of her fiance, Stella Marcham welcomes the opportunity to stay with her pregnant sister, Madeliene, at her imposing country mansion, Greyswick – but she arrives to discover a house of unease and her sister gripped by fear and suspicion.
Before long, strange incidents begin to trouble Stella – sobbing in the night, little footsteps on the stairs – and as events escalate, she finds herself drawn to the tragic history of the house.
Aided by a wounded war veteran, Stella sets about uncovering Greyswick’s dark and terrible secrets – secrets the dead whisper from the other side…
In the classic tradition of The Woman In Black, Anita Frank weaves a spellbinding debut of tragedy, loss and redemption.
“Things happen in this house that defy explanation.. I am afraid.. . I am afraid of this house.”
Wow! Anita Frank blew me away with this mesmerising novel. Atmospheric, tender, alluring, harrowing and chilling, The Lost Ones is an exploration of family, love, grief, tragedy, secrets and the supernatural expertly woven together into a breathtaking story that I couldn’t put down.
“Of one things I was becoming increasingly convinced: behind the crass grandeur and tasteless opulence, the walls of Greyswick were infused with so many secrets and lies that the very fabric of the building breathed deceit.”
Stella Marcham has returned home from nursing the wounded in France after the death of her fiance, Gerald. She is crushed and desolate, overwhelmed by her grief. Only her sister, Madeleine understood and slowly brought her back from the brink. Her parents don’t recognise her grief and think there is something wrong with her and call Dr Mayhew saying they think she needs help. Like before, an asylum is mentioned, much to Stella’s horror. How can she get them to understand she isn’t hysterical and just needs time?
When her brother-in-law Hector asks Stella if she’ll go and stay with her pregnant sister at his ancestral home, Greyswick, she jumps at the chance – it’s the perfect excuse to get away and to repay her sister for all she did for her after Gerald’s death. Arriving at the mansion, Stella finds her sister a shadow of her former self and vows to do whatever she can to help. That first night she experiences the first of many strange events that will lead the sisters to believe there’s a supernatural element at work, beliefs that will see them labelled troublemakers and hysterical. But even after Madeleine is sent back to their parents’ home, Stella is determined to investigate the dark history and secrets of Greyswick and discover the truth.
“And finally, I told him of that day, the day my nightmares were created.”
The Lost Ones is gothic fiction with heart. Interlaced with the chilling ghost story, scandalous revelations and shocking twists are love stories about the many different forms that love takes. But it is the sweet love story of Stella and Gerald that was one of my favourite parts of this book. The flashbacks where Stella remembered their happy times together would make me smile but also make me ache for what she’d lost when he’d been killed in France. Stella’s raw, agonising and overwhelming emptiness and grief was palpable and the chapter where we finally learn the circumstances of Gerald’s death broke my heart and brought tears to my eyes.
“Something happened in this house, something that led to terrible consequences…And there’s someone still here who never wants it revealed.”
The author has filled this book with an array of compelling and fascinating characters. Stella was a great protagonist. Though she feels weakened by her grief, she is a strong, determined and brave woman who was easy to relate to and root for. Annie Burrows, Stella’s housemaid, is vital to the story and probably the most intriguing character. She is a strange girl who unnerves people, but in fact she is an anxious, timid, quiet young woman who tries to keep herself unnoticed in the background as much as possible. As the strange occurrences increase Stella notices little things about Annie and begins to see her in a new light, realising she has a gift that could be the key to solving the mystery of Greyswick.
Mrs Henge and Lady Brightwell were fantastic antagonists and there was an oppressive atmosphere that radiates from the page anytime they were in a scene. Lady Brightwell is the matriarch of Greyswick, an imposing and unflinching woman who and insists on things being done properly. She has little time for what she considers to be the histrionics of Stella and Madeleine and is insistent that there are no ghosts or secrets to be uncovered. She’s a tough adversary, especially when everyone else is on her side. Mrs Henge, the housekeeper, is an ominous, foreboding character. I was suspicious of what she knew from early on but couldn’t ascertain how much Lady Brightwell or others were involved.
“I would find a way to fit the pieces of this appalling puzzle together.”
Anita Frank is an author to watch. I am in awe of her talent and still can’t believe this is a debut novel. Expertly and elegantly written, flawlessly plotted and utterly immersive, The Lost Ones had me hooked from the first page. The vivid scene setting made me feel like I was right beside Stella in the shadowy, claustrophobic halls of Greyswick, chills running down my spine as the eerie things begin to happen. I even had to sleep with the light on as I was so unsettled by sinister events and the ghost of a young boy.
Even if spooky stories aren’t usually your thing I would urge you to try this one as I think it’s a story that has something for everyone. I can’t recommend it highly enough and I look forward to seeing what the author writes next.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Anita Frank was born in Shropshire and studied English and American History at the University of East Anglia. She lives in Berkshire with her husband and three children and is now a full-time career for her disabled son. The Lost Ones is her first novel.