Lost Souls | Seth Patrick | 2015 | Pan | 375p | Review copy | Buy the book
Lost Souls follows on from Reviver, published a couple of years ago. You can read Lost Souls without having read its predecessor but I recommend that you do, not least because Lost Souls does reveal much of what happened in Reviver. This review assumes that you’ve read Reviver.
Jonah Miller has a most unusual job. He works for the Forensic Revival Service in the US as one of their most gifted Revivers. As a child he discovered he had a talent that few might want to have – he accidentally revived his dead mother, just for a few moments but long enough to know that his life would never be the same again. It turned out that he wasn’t alone. A few people have the knack of waking up the dead. Jonah’s job is to revive the recently deceased, working alongside the police, allowing the murdered and the desperate a few minutes in which they can reveal their murderer and, if time allows, a moment to say goodbye to their loved ones. Having joined the Service aged just 19, Jonah works closely with his partner, Never Geary, a technician who makes sure that nothing can go wrong during the time in which Jonah is linked to the dead while recording everything for the court case where, not surprisingly, a revived murder victim’s statement is extraordinarily effective.
All well and good until you begin to understand that the revival process allows much more than the murdered to speak. As we learned in Reviver, there is something else out there in the limbo in which the dead are held. Not all of it is evil, on the contrary, but there is something terrifying, waiting to use the Revivers to come through. Jonah might have thought that he destroyed the evil in his previous case, recalled in Reviver, but, as the horrific bloody murder of Mary Connart comes to prove, it was only a matter of time before the evil and the damned returned from the dominion of the lost souls.
Times have changed since Reviver. Jonah is back at work following his earlier traumatic case but he’s returned to a business under threat. Most people, including the government accept the value of revivals for solving murders – as well as the humanity of giving a victim a last chance to say goodbye and receive a kind of peace – but a new movement is on the rise and gaining power, built on rising funds. The Afterlifers want the Forensic Revival Service shut down. This is going to add to Jonah and Never’s problems at a time when they have more than enough. An answer seems to come from a private organisation that is recruiting Revivers as part of a study to understand the reasons for revivals and evaluate their worth. It is hoped that this will destroy the Afterlife argument once and for all. Not that this affects Jonah. He’s gone private, having had enough of the FRS and the crippling allowances they have to make for the Afterlifers. But when he is called in to investigate the murder of Mary Connart and revive her poor mutilated body, he takes on a case that once more will remove the ground from beneath his feet.
After a gap of two years (filled by the pageturner The Returned), it was so good to return to the story of Jonah and Never. Revival was an unforgettable read and I was keen to return to this strange world in which the dead might not stay dead. While Lost Souls is an enjoyable novel, it is quite different. Reviver only really became a horror novel in its closing stages but Lost Souls is a horror thriller almost from its beginning. The ties with the FRS are cut and Jonah, Never and Annabel (a strong character in Reviver but perhaps less so here), are almost entirely on their own as they tread into some very deep water indeed. One aspect of Lost Souls that I particularly enjoyed was Never – he really comes into his own.
Because Lost Souls relies more on horror than Reviver, it did take it a little out of my comfort zone. I had enjoyed the procedural element of the previous novel and I did miss the workings of the FRS. Also, as it followed on from Reviver some of the element of surprise was removed. Nevertheless, Lost Souls is a fast fun read and the tempo only builds as our villain does his best to show us his worst. Its opening is truly scary and throughout there are eye-watering moments. Seth Patrick is a fine writer of suspense and darkness, exploring the effect of such terror on the human mind as the world of horror increasingly encroaches on our own.