Book review: Lost Girl by Adam Nevill

Lost Girl by Adam Nevill
Lost Girl by Adam Nevill

The king of darkness has donned a new mantle for a brilliant thriller that envisions a terrifying future.

Adam Nevill has made the horror genre his own but in a story that so vividly and viscerally imagines a world ruptured by climate change, it is the power of possibility rather than fear of the supernatural that makes the heart beat faster.

After making our hair stand on end with spine-chillers like No One Gets Out Alive, Last Days and House Of Small Shadows, Nevill turns his considerable writing skills to building a credible, dystopian world, a cruel and crowded landscape riven by war, drought, famine, broiling heat, superstorms and rampant thuggery.

Amidst the chaos, crime, decay and riots is one man on a mission to find his four-year-old daughter abducted two years ago and whose disappearance is of little interest to a police force coping with a country teetering on anarchy and annihilation.

He is simply ‘the father,’ a human being with no name, true identity or purpose except a single-minded, reckless determination to go through hell and high water to seek out revenge and rescue his beloved child missing through what he regards as his own carelessness.

It’s 2053 and runaway climate change has transformed the landscape of the British Isles and what is left of organised society. Billions are fast facing starvation and mankind is slowly moving northwards to escape the destructive effects of floods, wars, drought, food shortages and storms.

Refugees arrive daily, the population has swollen to 120 million and the horrific climactic swings have left inhabitants of every age vulnerable to the pandemics that are sweeping across the globe.

The only ones finding strength in adversity are ruthless people-smugglers and violent gangs… gangs like the amoral King Death which reigns supreme and worships only chaos and brutality.

One man’s world went to hell two years ago after his only child was snatched from the garden when he should have been watching out for her. The moments before her disappearance play in a perpetual, guilty loop in his mind, as do nightmarish fantasies of who took her, and why.

The police were too preoccupied to launch a proper investigation and community spirit in his neighbourhood of Devon has evaporated with the onslaught of summer heatwave terrors, flood-routing winters and the constant battle to survive.

No one cares about one more missing child so it’s down to him to find her, even if it means doing things he would once have considered unthinkable and going to the worst places imaginable….

Lost Girl is a gripping, multi-faceted thriller, a chilling portrait of civilisation on the brink of collapse, a country overflowing with desperate people at the mercy of crime, climate and chronic illness, reduced to living in the cramped, pitiless quarters of ever-shrinking, stinking, dangerous shanty towns.

Nevill’s writing is eloquent, spare and breathtakingly detailed, persuading us through the medium of words and compelling visual description that this is a future not of fantasy or make-believe, but grounded in the reality of a planet under serious threat.

The father’s plight – physically, emotionally and ethically – is what makes this haunting, disturbing story truly one of boundless horror and one that will give readers pause for thought long after the last page has turned.

(Pan, paperback, £7.99)