Peter Pan revisited.
Stilling reimagines the world of the children’s classic, and all of the familiar characters and places are here, including the Darlings, the Lost Boys, Tinker Bell, Captain Hook, pirates, cowboys, Indians, Neverland and early Edwardian London. Stilling even introduces J.M. Barrie as a character. But this is revisionist Pan, for the novel begins in the modern world with the murder of a child in Massachusetts. One afternoon, Preston Tumber visits Gregory Hawthorne, a strange neighbor, and is offered a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. Out of politeness, he reluctantly accepts the gift, but on the way home, he experiences a seizure and dies. He wakes up in the here and now of Neverland and becomes one of the Lost Boys. Meanwhile, his parents are grieving, yet they find their grief somewhat mitigated with the arrest of Hawthorne, who protests his innocence. A few weeks after his arrest—and before he’s brought to trial—he’s killed in prison. Shortly after this, a new Lost Boy arrives in Neverland, Peyton, who is Preston’s best friend. It seems as though he, too, was murdered, and obviously not by Hawthorne, who died several weeks prior to Peyton’s death. Meanwhile, in turn-of-the-century London, young Winifred Darling has a serious fall and faces a difficult recovery. In her delirium, she seems to have visited Neverland and to have met young Peter. Back in 21st-century Massachusetts, a game’s afoot, as there’s obviously a murderer of children on the loose.
A revisionist reconstruction that never quite works due to the jarring disjunction between fantasy and reality.