The Lost Ones by Ben Cheetham

A review of the dramatic thriller novel The Lost Ones by Ben Cheetham.

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Ben Cheetham’s novel, The Lost Ones, tells the story of a family rocked by the disappearance of their nine-year-old daughter, Erin. The local populace band together and mount a search of the local forest where her mother last saw her. Tom Jackson (Erin’s father) has just received planning permission to restart the local quarry and he suspects that one of the anti-quarry protestors has kidnapped his daughter to force him to abandon his plans. Erin’s teenage brother has a different theory, however. Jake, the brother, starts to investigate an unsolved double murder and finds evidence that may help to find Erin. As the Jackson family desperately search for their daughter, secrets are uncovered that not only threaten their marriage but the lives of their children too.

This book is a bit of a puzzle: it’s a not-bad family drama but it is a bad dark, gritty thriller; the writing is okay for dramatic literature but lacks enough impact or tension to be thrilling. It’s like reading a weeks’ worth of EastEnders, concentrating on just one family. The book never picks up pace and the “secrets” are not so secret nor the “mystery” mysterious. It lacks punch. I think this can be attributed to a number of things.

Firstly, Mr Cheetham has followed the rules of writing fiction taught by schools perfectly: set the scene, introduce your main characters, present the dilemma, solve the problem and provide a resolution. I am not saying there is anything intrinsically wrong with using this method when you’re writing, but it does make the story seem forced.

Secondly, the inane, useless conversations the characters keep having either with each other or themselves is overwhelming. We know the character is not good enough, sad, angry, frightened, or a teenager; we don’t need to be told every time they appear. These conversations do not advance the plot, provide clues, or even give an insight into different aspects of each characters’ personalities.

Sadly, although this book showed great promise, it didn’t live up to its claims. This isn’t a thriller at all as there is no tension. The whole story could have been written in fifty pages and would have made a decent short story. There was no need to fill it out with meaningless fluff.

If you do read this book, look at it as a family drama and all that goes with it, not as a dark and gritty thriller filled with mystery and substance.

Cassidy grew up in Thanet and lives here with her family.

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