Lost Boy Lost Girl

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Tim Underhill has flown home from New York for the funeral of his sister-in-law, Nancy, who has committed suicide. The death was sudden, and inexplicable to those who knew her. Nancy and her husband Philip are, on the surface, an average middle- class midwestern couple. The only unusual association in their lives would appear to be Nancy’s relationship to an infamous serial killer, Joseph Kalendar, her first cousin.

When Nancy begins behaving oddly, the person who first notices and who is most affected by her behavior, is her fifteen-year-old son, Mark. Mark’s concern with his mother coincides with his sudden obsession with the house behind his own, the house in which Kalendar committed his murders. Mark and his friend Jimbo have broken into the house on Michigan Street, and Mark continues to go there on his own. Shortly after his mother commits suicide, Mark disappears.

Mark is not the only young person to have disappeared from the neighborhood. A number of young people have vanished, and the police are on the lookout for a pedophile. But Underhill has begun to receive indications that Mark is not the victim of the pedophile. He believes Mark’s disappearance is connected to the house on Michigan Street, the relationship to Joseph Kalendar, and his wish for a different life from that of his parents. The disappearance also seems to be connected to the death of Kalendar’s daughter, Lily.

Peter Straub ranks among the best and most literate of the writers of horror fiction. Unlike those who specialize in drooling monsters, Straub uses a subtler, more effective, style. He deals in a kind of horror that builds on the reader’s unease, layer by layer. For fans of this genre, Lost Boy Lost Girl is a book worth reading.