Jonathan Aycliffe - The Lost
"There is a clever twist at the very end..."
British born Michael Feraru, is from a long line of Romanian aristocrats. He has left his country of birth and his love, to reclaim his heritage - a Draculian castle deep in the heart of Transylvania. He plans to turn his inheritance into an orphanage in the new post-Ceausescu, post-communist country. There he enlists the help of a young local lawyer, Liliana Popescu, to search for the missing Feraru millions, and battle through the complex maze of old bureaucracy in the scam-rich, newly-born state.
Feraru describes his journey into the heart of the Romanian countryside, wasted by years of neglect and caught in a time-warp, as though the twentieth century had never reached it. When he eventually arrives at his inheritance, he finds Castel Feraru in a sunless valley in the Carpathian Mountains. This part of Michael's inheritance is home to much more than memories.
I have loved and championed Aycliffe's ghost stories for many years. I read 'Naomi's Room' when it very first came out in hardback in 1991. 'The Lost' arrived in 1996 and in its way is homage to Bram Stoker's novel, 'Dracula'. The story is told through a series of letters and journals about Michael's (soon to change to Mihai), who is chasing his Romanian roots. This way of telling his story did not bother me and the way the novel is set out I found quite intriguing. The first half of this novel lifted the hairs from the back of my neck as strange goings-on happen, not only in Romania, but in Cambridge where Michael was a teacher before he left to find his ancestors.
Deaths begin to happen in Cambridge, but unfortunately, this is not explored in the second half of the book and feels quite forgotten. It is in the second half when Michael finally reaches Castel Vlaicu nestled high up in the Carpathian Mountains when I felt Aycliffe's book begin to unravel. Despite being at the place where things happened in the past and where there is still a presence, the suspense just didn't feel as strong as the first half of the book. I don't know if Aycliffe wasn't sure of his destination, but though much is mentioned of the 'strigoi', their appearance is quite late and the climax felt slightly rushed. There is a clever twist at the very end, but by then I wasn't convinced and the story had lost its potency for me. This is not his best, but still very well written.
Reviewed by: C.S.