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Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James: A Book Review

Lost Among the Living
Author: Simone St. James
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery and Suspense, Romance
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: 2016
Pages: 364
Source: My State Public Library
Synopsis: England, 1921. Three years after her husband, Alex, disappeared, shot down over Germany, Jo Manders still mourns his loss. Working as a paid companion to Alex's wealthy, condescending aunt, Dottie Forsyth, Jo travels to the family’s estate in the Sussex countryside. But there is much she never knew about her husband’s origins…and the revelation of a mysterious death in the Forsyths’ past is just the beginning…

     All is not well at Wych Elm House. Dottie's husband is distant, and her son was grievously injured in the war. Footsteps follow Jo down empty halls, and items in her bedroom are eerily rearranged. The locals say the family is cursed, and that a ghost in the woods has never rested. And when Jo discovers her husband’s darkest secrets, she wonders if she ever really knew him.  Isolated in a place of deception and grief, she must find the truth or lose herself forever.

     And then a familiar stranger arrives at Wych Elm House…

     My Review: Three years after her husband, Alex, was shot down in Germany, Jo believes that he is dead. She decides to be a paid companion to Alex’s wealthy and prudish aunt, Dottie. She travels with her throughout Europe and finally settles down in their country estate called Wych Elm House. It is not long wafter Jo settles into the house that all is not well. Dottie and her husband, Robert have a strained relationship. Their son, Martin, is not well. She also learns that Dottie had a daughter who committed suicide. When she sees the ghost of Dottie’s daughter, Frances, Jo learns that Frances may have been murdered. As she investigates the death, she finds that they are connected to Alex. Jo learns that Alex has been hiding dark secrets. Could Jo ever trust and love her husband again?

   Unlike Mrs. St. James’s other female characters, I really could not connect with Jo. Jo seemed very distant to me and was a mousy character. Because of this, I could not understand Jo or sympathise with her at all. Even though she is the main character in the story, Jo just seems to be there. She was mostly a background character in the novel.  There were other characters that I thought were more interesting than Jo, and I thought that Jo’s character was not necessary. Thus, Jo was an underdeveloped character, and it did not draw me into the story.

  Overall, this novel was about love, secrets, and betrayal. The plot was slow-moving and drawn out. I think the story would have worked better as a short story. Instead, it took me longer than I usually do when I read her novels because I was not invested in the plot. I kept putting it down and only sometime later did I pick it back up again. Just like the main character, there were also some unnecessary characters. One example is the dog ghost. The dog ghost was never fully explained, and I think it would have been better to have left it out.  Also, the novel was very predictable with no twists and turns. I did think that the novel was very atmospheric, and I loved the how the author alluded to her previous novels. I reccommend this novel for fans of Rebecca, Mistress of Mellyn, and Nine Coaches Waiting. However, for fans like me who has read everything Mrs. St. James has ever written, this novel is a huge disappointment. I can only wait for The Broken Girls to be released to be enthralled by her stories again.

Rating: 2½ out of 5 stars



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