Review: Lost Man’s Lane by Scott Carson

cover of Lost Man's LaneLost Man’s Lane by Scott Carson
Atria (March 26, 2024)
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Coming-of-age novels have been done so often that it’s brutally tough to come up with something unique and experienced, as if the reader hasn’t traveled down that same old road a million times over. Yet, such as in the case of Boy’s Life or Stephen King’s “The Body,” sometimes something stands out. Scott Carson, who many now know is best-selling mystery/thriller author Michael Koryta, loves to blaze his own trail. Lost Man’s Lane, thankfully, is that great read that combines the smart characterization of Koryta with the darker feel of Carson, a smooth yet disturbing tale that lingers long after the final page.

Sixteen-year-old Marshall Miller is struggling in small town Indiana, a setting Ray Bradbury and King would love, yet Carson chose 1999 for the throwback. The implications are heavy: Columbine, Y2K, the Afghanistan war, and the cultural effects are on full blast, from music and cars to clothing and more. He creates the ideal world that will yank many back to a world about to change millennia.

Marshall’s world explodes when he encounters a strange cop on the drive home — and notices a terrified woman in the cruiser’s backseat. The cop threatens him — and then disappears. His name is suddenly in the papers and his summer upended — until the bottom falls out.

He hooks up with an enigmatic private investigator who teaches him the ropes of the profession, a man with many secrets but also a good heart. The pair form an interesting relationship that gives Marshall focus amidst the storm as the town descends into darkness. The true horror begins to emerge everywhere, from venomous snakes appearing in his home to the cop’s return.

Carson creates secondary characters that steal the show here, often with a mixture of natural humor (as teenage years are often pure hell mixed with a comedic social life). The unlikely pairing of a jock/gym rat with Marshall brings the laughs, a welcome break from the taut tension, forming waves of suspense whose undertow drags the reader along. He weaves the story with organic twists and turns, mostly with character revelations that bring the novel to a stunning, yet perfectly realized conclusion.

Lost Man’s Lane is highly recommended for many reasons. For those unfamiliar with Carson — or Michael Koryta — correct that. This is psychological suspense, thriller, horror, and more at its best, no matter where it’s shelved.

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