Winifred Rudge, a bemused writer struggling to get beyond the runaway success of her mass-market astrology book, travels to London to jump-start her new novel about a woman who is being haunted by the ghost of Jack the Ripper. Upon her arrival, she finds that her stepcousin and old friend John Comestor has disappeared, and a ghostly presence seems to have taken over his home. Is the spirit Winnie's great-great-grandfather, who, family legend claims, was Charles Dickens's childhood inspiration for Ebenezer Scrooge Could it be the ghostly remains of Jack the Ripper Or a phantasm derived from a more arcane and insidious origin Winnie begins to investigate and finds herself the unwilling audience for a drama of specters and shades -- some from her family's peculiar history and some from her own unvanquished past. In the spirit of A. S. Byatt's Possession, with dark echoing overtones of A Christmas Carol, Lost presents a rich fictional world that will enrapture its readers.
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September 17, 2002
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Excerpt from Lost by Gregory Maguire
Somebody Else in the Vehicle
said the attorney-type into his cell phone. He wiped the wet from his face. "There must be. It's in the carpool lane." He listened, squinting, and motioned to Winnie: Stop. Don't open the car door yet. Already, other drivers were slowing down to rubberneck. "Where are we, Braintree, Quincy On 93 north, anyway, a half mile beyond the junction with 128. Yes, I know enough not to move anyone, but I'm telling you, you'll have a hell of a time getting an ambulance through, what with rush hour there'll be a backup a mile long before you know it."
He listened again. Then, "Right. I'll look. Two or more, maybe."
Returning from a few quiet days on Cape Cod, Winifred Rudge had missed her turnoff west and gotten stuck on the JFK toward Boston. Woolgathering, nail biting, something. Focus was a problem. Late for her appointment, she'd considered the odds: in this weather, what were her chances of being ticketed for violating the diamond lane's two-riders-or-more rule Limited. She'd risked it. So she'd been at the right place on the downgrade to see the whole thing, despite the poor visibility. She'd watched the top third of a white pine snap in the high winds. Even from a half mile away, she'd noticed how the wood flesh had sprung out in diagonal striations, like nougat against rain-blackened bark. The crown of the tree twisted, then tilted. The wind had caught under the tree's parasol limbs and carried it across three lanes of slow-moving traffic, flinging it onto the hood and the roof of a northbound Subaru in the carpool lane. The driver of the Subaru, four cars ahead of Winnie, had braked too hard and hydroplaned left against the Jersey barriers. The evasive action hadn't helped.
Winnie had managed to tamp her brakes and avoid adding to the collection of crumpled fenders and popped hoods. She had been the first out in the rain, the first to start poking through dark rafts of pine needles. Mr. Useful Cell Phone was next, having emerged from some vehicle behind her. He carried a ridiculous out-blown umbrella, and when he got off the phone with the 911 operator he hooked the umbrella handle around a good-size tree limb and tried to yank it away.
"They said don't touch the passengers," he yelled through the rain.
Afraid her voice would betray her panic, she didn't even like to answer, but to reassure him she managed to say, "I know that much." The smell of pine boughs, sap on her, hands, water on her face. What was she scared of finding in that dark vehicle But the prime virtue of weather is immediacy, and the wind tore away the spicy Christmas scent. In its place, a vegetable stink of cheap spilled gasoline. "We may have to get them out, do you smell that " she shouted, and redoubled her efforts. They could use help; where were the other commuters Just sitting in their cars, listening to hear themselves mentioned on the WGBH traffic report.