Review: “The Lost and the Damned,” Dennis Liggio

Pros: Interesting setup
Cons: Missed connections; see-saw personality; completely unaddressed questions
Rating: 2 out of 5

In Dennis Liggio’s The Lost and the Damned, a private detective named John Keats is asked to find a missing pop star, Katie Vanders, before the public finds out she’s gone. He’s more accustomed to documenting cheating spouses, but if he succeeds at this particular case he’ll be paid half a million dollars. Unlike all the other people looking for her, he has a history of prophetic dreams. Those dreams quickly lead him to a forgotten and terrifying mental institution in Vermont.

 

The opening tone does not match the ending of the book. The opening starts as a retrospective on the events of the book, tipping us off to some of what John feels and remembers regarding his dive into the realm of horror. The problem is, it’s a mismatch with the end of the book. I went back to re-read the first few pages and I had trouble seeing how they came out of the last moments of the book. (Sorry for the vagueness–I’m trying not to give too much away from the end.) I feel as though the book should have had its actual start a little further in.

There are a number of totally unaddressed subplots or questions here; sometimes it’s interesting to have a loose end or two but these came across as plot holes. I still don’t understand quite how Katie ended up in the hospital, much less how she ended up at some weird pyramid while someone conducted a ritual. What about John’s weird dreams? They’re used to give him an artificial push to find Katie when no one else could, and then are never mentioned again (nor is there any more generic explanation for why he might have interesting abilities). Also, one of the very early things that happens is that five ‘monsters’ (psych patients who now have weird abilities) escape from the institute and wreak total havoc on the town… and then we never hear anything more about what might have happened to them (either they were destroyed by the army that moved in, or the world should now be much more aware of paranormal happenings by the end of the book). Also in reference to those monsters, the happily skipping evil girl is so over-used it’s reached beyond simple cliche territory.

Some of the events were cliches as well. Like the lone voice on the radio detailing what’s going on, straight to “Oh god, they found me!”

John and Katie end up apparently skipping around in time, seeing various parts of another patient’s life. Some events tied to that patient were awfully obvious, and yet it took a painful forever for John (or anyone else) to put things together. Now I will say that at one point he draws a beautifully wrong conclusion, and that was a nice detail.

Katie’s personality see-saws about. Sometimes she’s sweet; sometimes she’s brassy. When she gets brassy she tends to argue about things that are totally irrelevant. She and John had a sort of argument that ended up being almost entirely about friend-zoning (though not in those words), just because they watched someone’s request for a date get gently rejected.

 

Ultimately: the plot was interesting. John and Kate see some neat stuff, and the how and when of their hopping around in time and space is pretty neat. If you don’t mind a bunch of unexplained stuff and a bit of character see-sawing, you might like it more than I did.

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