The Lost Village
Minotaur Books (March 23, 2021)
Reviewed by Ray Palen
I have always been intrigued about civilizations or villages that just up and disappeared like the colony in Roanoke, Virginia, back in the day. Polish author Camilla Sten explores just such a concept with her terrific U.S. debut—THE LOST VILLAGE.
Originally released in 2019 and already an international best-seller, this novel is finally hitting the U.S in 2021. She has already released a second novel entitled THE INHERITANCE that I hope makes its way to an American translation shortly.
In August 1959, a small party came upon the Swedish village of Silvertjarn, only to find everything had gone silent in the town. They ask each other: “Where is everyone?” But nary a trace of any living person can be found anywhere, as if the entire population vanished overnight. Now, in the present day, a documentary film team has made their way to Silvertjarn—Sweden’s only ghost town—to explore what might have become of all the residents of this now infamous village.
Leading the crew is filmmaker Alice Lindstedt, whose grandmother and her entire family disappeared there back in 1959. The action of THE LOST VILLAGE jumps between two periods—THEN and NOW. Back in the THEN portion, we learn that the mines in the village were closing, which could leave some clue as to why the population might relocate—but it still seems farfetched that the residents were never heard from by anyone ever again. Alice is having her own issues with her crew and the mysterious and ghostly experiences they have been having while on location.
Haunting Alice particularly is the fact that the only two residents of this village that were ever recovered were a woman who was later stoned to death, and an infant child. Alice’s best friend on the film is Tone, and the one member of the crew she does not completely trust is the young woman, Emmy. The tension between them will become a constant potboiler throughout the novel.
887 residents was the total number of the missing, and that was after a thorough search of all the village buildings by the police back in 1959. There are plenty of clues in the THEN portions of the story to point towards what might have happened, but the author always keeps a tight rein on these events, keeping the NOW that much more suspenseful and spookier. When a member of the film crew goes missing, things really take a dark turn as the novel lurches forward towards an unpredictable ending that may or may not have supernatural reasoning behind it.
Being initially described as The Blair Witch Project meets Midsommar was enough to sell me on THE LOST VILLAGE, and the novel is well worth the ride. A terrific American debut that will send chills down your spine from start to finish.