Wednesday 24 January 2024

The Lost Village: A Novel by Camilla Sten (Minotaur Books) | review by Douglas J. Ogurek

Strong storytelling compensates for tired concept. 

The Lost Village unites stories from two different timelines. The present-day component covers the danger that unfolds while Alice Lindstedt’s crew shoots a teaser for a documentary about the decades-abandoned Swedish village of Silvertjarn. There is a threat out there, and we’re not sure whether it’s human or supernatural. 

The second piece gradually reveals what happened to this mining town in the 1950s, as well as the story of the birth of a mysterious baby that was left when nearly nine hundred people disappeared. 

What happened? Was this a mass suicide? Mass migration? Was it aliens? Russians coming in and kidnapping them? Alice wants to get to the bottom of this mystery. Author Camilla Sten faces the challenge of creating something new in the arguably oversaturated film-crew-encounters-threat-while-documenting-mysterious-setting horror market. The present story, told from Alice’s perspective in first person present, takes a while to get going — there’s a lot of walking around the site and not much happening to suggest the place is dangerous. Where Sten makes up for that, however, is in the conflicts between Alice and Emmy, whose friendship with Alice was shattered by something that happened in college. This tension will mount as Alice continues to make decisions that put her team at risk. Other crew members include Emma’s boyfriend Robert, Max (interested in Alice), and Tone, an amateur photographer about whom Alice withholds critical information from the others.  

The past story unfolds in third-person narration from the perspective of Alice’s great grandmother Elsa. One of Elsa’s daughters, Margarete (also Alice’s grandmother), has already left Silvertjarn when handsome and charismatic Pastor Mattias arrives and captivates many villagers, chief among them Elsa’s younger daughter Aina. Relationships deteriorate as the pastor’s influence intensifies. 

As the climax approaches, Sten steps up the tension by quickly flipping between timelines. 

The Lost Village does not top the charts in terms of scare factor. Rather, its strength lies in its handling of complex relationships and susceptibility to silver-tongued leaders.—Douglas J. Ogurek ***

No comments:

Post a Comment