Lost Among the Living
by Simone St. James
Cover Artist: Woman by Nina Masic / Trevillion Images; Leaves by vnlit / Shutterstock
Review by Mel Jacob
NAL Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451476197
Date: 05 April 2016 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Echoes of Daphne du Maurier permeate Simone St. James novel Lost Among the Living. Family secrets, a ghost, and murder frighten Jo Manders, the putative widow of a Forsyth family cousin.
Manders' husband Alex never returned from WWI and his body was never found leaving her with no widow's pension. Hired by her husband's aunt, Dottie Forsyth, as a companion on her art buying trip to Europe, Jo is kept busy. On their return to Wych Elm, the Forsyth family home, surprises await them both.
Dottie's son Martin suffers constant pain from war wounds and is only recently returned from a Swiss sanitarium. His poor health hints at an early death. His mother is anxious for him to marry and sire a child. Initially, she had hoped Jo would be the bride until she was reminded Alex had not yet been declared dead. Friendly to Jo, Martin had adored his cousin Alex.
Jo also encounters the ghost of a young woman she assumes was the daughter who committed suicide by jumping from the roof. No one wants to speak about the incident or the girl. Then Jo learns her husband had visited the family just before the his cousinís death, but had not stopped to see her.
Doubts about her husband's love and what had happened to him haunt Jo. When a military officer visits Dottie to look at some of the paintings she bought in post-war Europe, Jo asks him about her husband's war record. What he shares with her raises more questions than it answers.
When Jo discovers Alex's camera in leather case with the name Hans Faber, she wonders who Faber was and what he had to do with Alex. She knew her husband had relations in Germany and spoke the language fluently.
St. James provides detail about England, the aftermath of World War I, and its effect on the Forsyths and Jo. Alex's fate hangs over the family as well as haunting Jo. Why was his body never found? Did someone murder the young girl and, if so, why? All in all, two love stories, an interesting mystery, and a ghost hold the readers interest.
St. James specials in haunting gothic tales set in the England of the 1920s. She has four other novels including The Other Side of Midnight, the Haunting of Maddy Clare, An Inquiry Into Love and Death, and Silence for the Dead.