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Lost Souls Hardcover – August 5, 2004

3.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Part police procedural, part piercing psychological character study, Collins's latest novel revolves around a series of lurid murders that threaten the equilibrium of the unstable cop who investigates the killings, as well as the unnamed Midwestern town where they take place. The narrator is Lawrence, an erratic, disgruntled cop who finds the body of a three-year-old girl while on patrol on Halloween night. The initial investigation indicates that the girl was killed in a hit-and-run accident by high school quarterback Kyle Johnson; as the evidence begins to pile up, the police chief and mayor pressure Lawrence to help cover up Johnson's role in the crime. Lawrence goes along, but is seized by guilt and takes off on his own, keeping watch over the mother of the dead child. Then Johnson's girlfriend, Cheryl Carpenter, is found murdered soon after the child's death. As more killings ravage the town, Lawrence becomes both suspect and potential victim in a bizarre series of plot twists. Collins's style, which alternates between the clipped prose of a cop novel and some surreally introspective passages, gives the book the prose feel of a David Lynch film. Exposing the seedier elements of smalltown life, the author continues to successfully mine the same territory that got his first novel, The Keepers of Truth, shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
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From Booklist

On Halloween night in a dead-end town in Indiana, local cop Lawrence discovers the body of a three-year-old girl, dressed as an angel, who appears to be the victim of a hit-and-run accident. Called into a private meeting with the mayor, Lawrence is told to steer the investigation away from a star athlete, who is set to quarterback a championship game. But as the investigation spirals out of control, the body count mounts, and Lawrence discovers an astounding level of hypocrisy at work among the town's most prominent citizens. Irish expatriate Collins (The Resurrectionists, 2000) continues his bleak dissection of small-town America. He brings an outsider's perspective and a cunning use of detail to his portrait, as well as a moving characterization of a lonely cop, blindsided by a contentious divorce, who is struggling to adjust to a diminished quality of life. Every character, from the drug dealer to a harsh religious zealot, is a comment on how the American way of life has failed to deliver on its promise. A finely crafted novel written with intelligence and grace. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (August 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670033286
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670033287
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,252,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bill Higgins on October 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This was my first reading of a work by Michael Collins, who I met at an informal book signing in Dowagiac, MI. He has somewhat adopted this small town, approximately 25 miles north of Notre Dame University where he had a athletic scholarship to run on their cross county team and graduated from their Creative Writing School. He is truly representative of the "fighting Irish" as he was born and raised in Limerick, Ireland.

Lost Souls is a murder who-done-it that will keep you turning the pages to find out the next twist, which to me, is one important test of a mystery novel along with not too much side-show but enough to know where you are and who the people in story are. This is the book to take on your next trip or maybe tonight, if you want to read something you can't put down...and this is even the time of year to tie-in with the story, Halloween!

Collins use of a small Midwestern town, maybe not unlike Dowagiac, provides a comfortable feel for plain surroundings and easy to identify characters. There is a level of realism in the way the author develops the characters which reminded me of folks I've met along the way.

He takes us on a journey, begun with the murder of a child dressed for tick or treat but it is only the first of many murders. It is told to us by Lawrence the local cop, who himself is going through many life crisis. He seems to know what he should do but at each fork in the road he takes the easy path, yet his life continues to spin out of control. We meet some people who are suspects not just to the murders but doing their best to cover up the facts. They like Lawrence have their own demons and Michael gently inserts many clues to help or not, yet urges us on to the next chapter to find out more.
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Format: Hardcover
In a seamless story of actual loss (the death of a child), and a more ethereal emotional loss that permeates this sad, but honest, novel, author Michael Collins, continues to mine a slice of the American psyche we may not want to stare into. Lost Souls is David Lynch's Blue Velvet meets Mystic River, a surreal realism that takes readers into the dark psyche of a town.

Bleakness permeates this novel, a cop who has pulled a gun on his wife, divorced and unable to pay child support, a cop who is pulled into a cover up of a supposed hit and run on Halloween night in a small mid-west town. The inevitable trajetory of the novel is not hidden, but what Collins does is take us deep into the sense of despair and moral crisis facing so many people in economic ruination. There are trenchant passages of brilliant insight within this novel, and amidst a surreal story where the bodies pile up, Collins pulls off an uncanny, and amazing masterpiece of literary suspense.
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Format: Hardcover
I think the time I spent reading this book might better have been spent in a coma.

Don't get me wrong. Sure, the book is noir fiction; but I enjoy good dark fiction as much as anyone. If you want a good example of the genre, read any of Ross McDonald's mysteries or the much under-rated Saratoga series by Stephen Dobyns.

And it's not that the anti-hero is an alcoholic. As long as he can drop into an AA program and tack on some self-awareness, he's got my blessing. Try reading some of Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder novels; or James Lee Burke's Robicheaux series for a taste of that.

And it's not that the ending is inconclusive. I was totally satisfied by Thomas H. Cook's brilliant novel, "The Interrogation".

What it is about this book is that nothing is redemptive, nothing lifts the book up in any way. The narrator is an unremorseful alcoholic who entertains the conceit that he is a refugee, thereby demeaning virtually every refugee on the planet; the narrator is a loser. Very literally: he has lost his wife, his son. In the course of the book, through sheer obstinate stupidity, he loses his dog, his future, his credibility, his integrity, and whatever few remaining IQ points he had at the beginning of the novel.

The lose ends at the novel's end are painful: a girl has been murdered, it seems ritualistically, but we never know who committed the murder, only who has taken the blame. A woman is missing -- we are told by one character that she is safe but have no evidence of this, and in fact clues seems to imply the opposite.
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Format: Hardcover
I hate to go against the grain of all the other reviews on this page written by much more articulate readers than me. Yeah, this guy can write like only a few other authors I've read. Beautiful prose. But about half way through this book, I started hoping that the main character would either go ahead and suicide or get to an AA meeting. I mean, the despair was just relentless. And being a refugee from small town America myself, I can certainly recognize a few of the characters, but dam! every citizen in this town is a cretin. It's like that photographer, Diane Arbus or whoever, and how she was able to photograph probably a fairly normal person and bring out something sort of funky and corrupt in them. I will probably read more by Michael Collins, if just for the writing, but I'll approach the book with a bit more distance.
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