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Charlotte Zang
Lost Grove
For fans of Twin Peaks and Stranger Things, Lost Grove is the first in a paranormal mystery duology that explores the twisted legends and mysteries in one small town. In the eerie, enigmatic town of Lost Grove, where secrets whispered among the rustling pines are as thick as the fog rolling in from the sea, the discovery of Sarah Elizabeth Grahams' lifeless corpse on the windswept beach is but the first note in a haunting symphony of mysteries. Sergeant Seth Wolfe, the town's tenacious lawman, penetrates the cryptic and labyrinthine secrets veiled beneath the town's murky facade. A connection to Sarah Elizabeth, one he could never have fathomed, begins to take shape, blurring the lines between his own existence and the mysteries that enshroud the town. Suspects multiply like whispers in a haunted forest, but each lead unravels, and the mysteries of the case deepen. Meanwhile, a group of local teenagers embark on their own harrowing mission, driven by a relentless desire to answer the riddle of their friend's vanished brother and expose the sinister secrets harbored by an affluent institute nestled in the heart of Lost Grove. Bringing their disturbing findings to Seth, he discovers eerie parallels between their quest and his case. As Seth dives deeper into the abyss of darkness gripping Lost Grove, an unsettling incident threatens to derail his investigation and shatter the illusions of safety the town has harbored for far too long. A chilling web of malevolence begins to tighten its grip, ensnaring them all in a nightmarish dance that will test the limits of their resolve. Readers who love the eerie, unsettling mystery of Stephen King’s The Outsider and the monstrous legends of Brian McGreevy’s Hemlock Grove will enjoy this twisty, taut thriller.
Zang and Knudsen’s spellbinding and unsettling paranormal mystery, set in the enigmatic small town of Lost Grove, opens with a classic jolt: a lifeless body, in this case that of college student Sarah Elizabeth Graham, casting a shadow of unease over the tight-knit community. Sergeant Seth Wolfe, a seasoned homicide detective returning to his hometown to care for his ailing father, takes the reins of the case, navigating the twists and turns of an investigation that gets deeply under the skin. The narrative shifts between Wolfe’s shocking discoveries and the fervor within the local school, where gossip and conspiracy theories run rampant among students, especially young Nettie, who believes she’s seen a monster she calls the “Green Man” and whose missing brother’s surprise return proves not to be a cause of celebration. Nettie’s suspicions point toward the town’s “renowned” and mysterious Orbriallis Institute.

Zang and Knudsen infuse the investigation with intrigue by crafting diverse characters with idiosyncrasies, secrets, and mysterious pasts. Wolfe's intimate knowledge of the townsfolk aids his interrogations, yet his detachment prompts him to even consider Sarah's parents as possible suspects. Within the confines of the small town, the narrative achieves an expansive feel, prompting readers to wonder whether it's the town shaping its inhabitants or the people’s natures shaping the town itself. Surprises abound: Story Palmer, the town librarian, is also a witch, while Mary has an eating disorder that compels her to consume blood, and the Graff twins may be telepathic.

The authors deftly cultivate a sense of claustrophobia as they suggest the residents' concealed truths. Dialogue is crisp, though some descriptive passages edge toward wordy. As the first in a duology, this entry leaves readers with more questions than answers, but it’s the many tantalizing portents, clues, and seeming impossibility that makes Lost Grove shine. Balancing the central story and a myriad of characters with finesse, the authors expertly set the stage for a gripping conclusion.

Takeaway: Unsettling and surprising paranormal mystery in an enigmatic small town.

Comparable Titles: Marion Myles’s No Time for Goodbye, Mary Stone’s Shadow’s Hostage.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-