They’ve called Imber the ‘lost village’ ever since the British Army moved in at the beginning of the Great War and forced the inhabitants out, turning the sleepy hamlet into a military training camp and firing range. To begin with, the War Office promised Imber’s residents that they could return to their homes once the war was over, but that was a lie. The Army still controls Imber, and Imber’s people are only allowed back into the village once a year, to hold a service of remembrance and tend to the overgrown graves of their dead. But Imber will live again, and a series of unexplainable supernatural occurrences – one of which has sent a soldier to the brink of madness – have forced the Army to seek ghost hunter and paranormal debunker Harry Price’s help. When Price asks his former assistant Sarah Grey to join him, she is reluctant to accept. She has been to Imber before, as a child, and the place holds strange memories. But Sarah has no idea quite how deep her connection to Imber runs, nor how closely related she is to one of Imber’s most brutal mysteries. Her presence is about to stir up Imber’s unquiet spirits in more ways than one.
There’s an unmistakeable The Woman in Black vibe about Neil Spring’s new Harry Price novel which works against it almost from the outset. We’ve been here too many times before, we’ve read and watched stories about ghostly children, mysteriously ringing church bells and walls studded with crucifixes far too often, and even when the twist arrives in the final pages of the novel it’s nothing that a seasoned horror fan won’t have seen coming. Spring’s prose style is tepid and unengaging, the ‘jump’ moments don’t work, the revelation that forms the emotional heart of the story doesn’t horrify the way that it should, and there are too many scenes when all the characters seem to do is talk at each other in short. pointed. sentences. A ghost story has to hook us on a gut level. That’s what makes great ghost stories like The Turn of the Screw, The Haunting of Hill House, Don’t Look Now and The Woman in Black (and movies like The Changeling) so compelling. And maybe that’s the problem. The Lost Village feels empty and unconvincing, like an anaemic paint-by-numbers version of what a ghost story should be. Maybe it’s just us but we didn’t believe a word of it.
THE LOST VILLAGE / AUTHOR: NEIL SPRING / PUBLISHER: QUERCUS / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 19TH