Title: Lost Girl
Author: Adam Nevill
Release date: October 22, 2015
There’s been a few books over the last number of years that have fallen into the category of “this book is the best book I’ve ever read but the worst reading experience I’ve ever had.” What I mean is that the book is phenomenal, lights out in every way possible, but also such a horrifying, gripping, emotional rollercoaster that tugs at certain core areas of your soul that you wish you’d never read it. Books such as Red X by David Demchuk, Odd Man Out by James Newman and Crossroads by Laurel Hightower. Now, enter, Lost Girl by Adam Nevill.
Over the last three or so years, I’ve been devouring all of Adam’s work and he’s become a sought after, must-read author for me. With an impending new arrival coming in October, fans of his work are getting excited. There’s still a few of his books I’ve not got to yet, but Lost Girl was one that I’ve been eyeballing with great excitement watching it climb up my TBR list.
Now that it’s not only arrived at the top but I’ve finished reading it, maybe I would’ve picked a different emotion than ‘excitement’ over what this book has done to.
Quick aside – my wife and I have been together for many, many years. In fact, September of this year (2022) will mark 25 years together and eight years married. We met in high school and other than a couple one or two day spats where we ‘broke up’ (ah those were the old days eh? well before cell phones and Facebook etc), we’ve been together through thick and thin. When we were significantly younger, we were told that most likely we’d never have kids. At least not unless we considered invitro. We were fine with that and we always lived with the understanding that if it happened, it happened, if not, it didn’t. As of writing this review, we’re two weeks away from our son turning six, which is truly crazy.
One thing I always mentally thought about when we didn’t have kids was that this world is a messed up place and I often had that discussion with friends and family about the “imagine bringing a kid into this world” trope. Funny enough, over the last few years, since Covid hit, everything that I used to bring up has essentially happened. Global pandemic, world leaders having temper tantrums and having to lay their man hoods on the table to show just how big their military penis’ are, the rich getting richer while the poor continue to get beat down and pay higher taxes and of course, let’s not forget, no body who has any say or power regarding Global Warming and Climate Crisis issues seems to truly give a damn and are willing to do anything. The summer’s are hotter, the winters are colder, the crops are suffering, food cost is skyrocketing and all the while we keep trucking along.
So, what’s the point of my aside?
Well, that in a nut shell is the road Nevill goes down. Only, like a maniacal jerk who wanted to punish the reader with the worst torture possible, he decided to open this up with a heart breaking chapter and focus the book on a father trying to find his kidnapped daughter.
This book’s not for the weak of heart.
What I liked: The book begins with the character of the father, one whose name we never learn, getting ready to send a flirtatious email, while his four year old daughter plays outside. His wife comes into the house, they chat and she asks him to watch her. He’s preoccupied with this email and before he knows it, his daughter is grabbed. From there, Nevill never lets up and completely crushes every single ounce of humanity the reader has.
Set in the near future, food production has all but stopped, the rich funneling supplies to their personal pantries. The sea levels have risen drastically, people having to move and flee entire sections of the continents now that they’re underwater and through this governments have fallen and crime has increased 1000 fold. Add in International tensions, new and mutating viruses and pandemics and the reality that the world has become infinitely hotter, Nevill has crammed so much emotional damage within even the first 100 pages, that it’s hard to pull yourself out of the downward spiral of depression that leaks off each page.
But that’s not the worst aspect. The worst aspect is that kidnapping, child trafficking and sex trafficking has run amok, the police forces too overwhelmed to prioritize a few missing kids each day when so much more is happening in their jurisdictions. So, what does Nevill do? He has the father go after his daughter. A sort of John Wick meets Liam Neeson’s Taken character. A guy willing to do whatever it takes to find her and bring her back. It’s brutal, violent, unhinged and has an impact on him as he goes from a seeker to an active blood participant on viciousness, all the while justifying it knowing he’s looking when no one else is.
I loved seeing the downfall this singular act of his daughter being taken had on him, his wife and their family unit. It was heartbreaking and excruciating to read, but so solidly grounded in reality and how I imagine most families would fall apart and struggle to carry on after such an act.
The ending is truly powerful and it speaks to the masterful storytelling that Nevill possesses that it isn’t a Disney ending, it isn’t wrapped up in a neat bow and they sail off into the sunset to live happily ever after.
What I didn’t like: It worked so well for the storyline but I wasn’t a fan of the dark almost supernatural leanings that come along with a specific character and related to the gang that the father has to face down throughout. It almost felt as though some of Nevill’s novel Last Days was seeping into this story and honestly, while that would be great and would’ve been a solid thing to see on the written page again, I wanted this to remain grounded in the reality of the ‘real world’ and have no otherworldly interference.
Why you should buy this: If you like blindfolding yourself, spreading your legs and having the closest person to your heart continuously kick you as hard as they can in your privates, then this book is for you. Over and over and over and over and over again Nevill crushes you and then increased the soul-brutalizing even within the next sentence. God, how I bawled throughout this. Look, we all know Nevill can write dark and scary and frightening stories. Look at The Ritual, Last Days, Apartment 16, The Reddening, Cunning Folk, Banquet for the Damned and No One Gets Out Alive as novels that people rave about time and time again. I myself still have to read the last two I listed up there, but I have no reason to believe they won’t rip me apart like the other books listed.
But this one. This one’s different. This was released in 2015, but now this novel will forever seem timeless. Pandemics and Climate Crises and just the downward trajectory we seem to be on create a stench that seeps off of these pages and permeates the air around you as you read it. This is a book with a stench, but one so horrifically powerful you’ll push it aside to see what happens.
I’m on the fence if this is my favorite Nevill book, but I do know this is a book I’ll never forget and one I think everyone who’s yet to read it to take a weekend, turn off the cellphone and clear your schedule and curl up in a ball and dive in. You’ll be cursing his name the entire time, but you won’t be able to put it down. Just amazing.
Well done, Adam. You’re a jerk of the worst kind.