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The Lost Village

Review

The Lost Village

written by Camilla Sten, translated by Alexandra Fleming

While THE LOST VILLAGE is Camilla Sten’s sophomore effort, it is the first of her novels to be published in the United States (thanks in part to a stellar translation by Alexandra Fleming) and is quite different from her debut in tone, plot and genre. If I were looking for a one-word description of the book, I would reflexively, though still quite accurately, use the term “creepy.”

THE LOST VILLAGE initially reminded me of THE RUINS by Scott Smith, though Sten’s novel eventually treads sure-footedly in another direction. Silvertjärn is a tiny village --- little more than a hamlet --- in rural Sweden whose population almost entirely vanished without warning in August 1959. I say “almost” because of the haunting and bizarre tableau that greeted the two police officers sent to investigate. They discovered a wailing infant and the body of a woman who had been tied to a pole in the town square and stoned to death.

"The book does a good job of being scary without being terrifying, but it gets the two jittery states just close enough that it really doesn’t make much difference."

In the book’s present, a fledgling documentary film director named Alice Lindstedt is determined to make the village and its secrets the subject of her next project. She hopes that it will establish her as a serious filmmaker and perhaps answer a question that has haunted her since childhood. Her grandmother’s loved ones were among those who mysteriously disappeared, and she hires a crew of four companions to assist her film’s production.

The documentary seems to be doomed almost from the start. The deserted village is nearly cut off from the rest of the country, with only one way in or out. There is no cell phone service, and the project limps along on limited funds. Most significantly, there is some history and tension between at least two of the crew members, and a third has a secret about the other two that can be temporarily hidden but not erased.

The quintet is barely there for a night when it appears that they are not alone ---someone is observing them on their periphery within the tiny village. As they attempt to film the deteriorating buildings, Alice finds some documents that hold clues as to what occurred. But whoever is spying on the team is determined to keep them in Silvertjarn, and the village seems to be cooperating as circumstances conspire to trap them there and personally introduce Alice and the other filmmakers to the same fate that the 1959 inhabitants suffered.

I would strongly suggest that you don’t start reading THE LOST VILLAGE as a literary nightcap, which is what I did. It will haunt your dreams as it sweeps up the cobwebs around the edges of your subconscious and drops them into the middle of your brain. Believe me, you will want to experience this when the sun is up and the room is bright. The book does a good job of being scary without being terrifying, but it gets the two jittery states just close enough that it really doesn’t make much difference.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 26, 2021

The Lost Village
written by Camilla Sten, translated by Alexandra Fleming

  • Publication Date: March 23, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250249252
  • ISBN-13: 9781250249258