Lost Boy, Lost Girl

Lost Boy, Lost Girl by Peter Straub

“Lost Boy, Lost Girl” by Peter Straub is available at the library in hardcover and large print.

Loren RossonLost Boy, Lost Girl reminded me that I haven’t outgrown the horror genre, that I can still be scared in surprising ways.

This story of two boys who become obsessed with an abandoned house blends two genres that Peter Straub had previously kept distinct, horror and mystery.

Their obsession drives the start of the story, and the eventual look inside is dreadful: It’s evening. Jimbo creeps onto the front porch. From the lawn Mark shines a flashlight into the window. Jimbo is so shocked by what he sees that he leaps backwards and passes out before Mark revives him and they run for their lives.

We have no idea what Jimbo saw, but it’s a terrifying scene regardless.

Pages later we find out:

“A guy was hiding way back in the room. He was looking right at me. I was so scared. It was like he stepped forward, like he deliberately moved into the light, and I saw his eyes. Looking at me. Like ball bearings or something, silvery.”

That may fall flat in the retelling (it could certainly pass for boilerplate formula in any work of horror fiction), but in context it’s a ripper. It appears that Jimbo has seen the ghost of a serial killer who used to live in the house and customized it to facilitate his murders. (The killer had used secret passageways to spy on his terrified captives, torment them on beds of pain, and do all sorts of hideous stuff.)

But it turns out the ghost isn’t the only entity inside the house; there’s something or someone even worse, and this mixture of terrors is handled so brilliantly we’re never really sure what’s going on.

Soon after, one of the boys disappears, and the question–the question of the whole book–is whether he was abducted by a pedophile or snatched into a spiritual world by the ghost of the serial killer’s daughter.

I’ll say no more, except that I finished Lost Boy, Lost Girl in only three readings. It’s a story that has stayed with me for a long time and has easily become one of my favorite horror novels.

About Loren Rosson

Loren Rosson heads up the circulation department at the Nashua Public Library. He's worked at the library since graduating from Lewis and Clark College, with the exception of the two years he spent in Lesotho with the Peace Corps, teaching high school.

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