Lost Among the Living
Simone St. James’s latest novel is by turns both moving and chilling. Set in post-World War I England, it focuses on Jo Manders, the widow of an RAF pilot. Left penniless with an insane mother to care for, Jo becomes the paid companion of her late husband’s aunt. Dealing with the irascible Dottie becomes second nature to Jo, but when the duo returns to Wych Elm House, she is confronted with the home’s tragic history. Dottie’s mad daughter, Frances, leapt to her death some years before, and when the girl’s ghost begins appearing to Jo, she must unravel the truth behind what happened. In doing so, she gradually uncovers her husband’s secret life. As Frances’s suicide begins to look like murder, Jo must decide if the truth is really the truth or just a figment of her imagination.
Lost Among the Living is a stunning novel reminiscent of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. Jo Manders is much more self-sufficient and worldly than that novel’s heroine, and in some ways more sympathetic. She has struggled to carry on in the wake of her beloved husband’s death, but the constant reality of poverty and madness is an ever-present motivation. The cast of characters is at times both vivid and suspect, and the reader will be kept guessing until the final pages. This novel will appeal to many readers, as it covers a gamut of genres: mystery, thriller, and gothic romance. Highly recommended.