In Lamb’s debut supernatural drama, a man is plagued by recurring images and dreams of a ghost, a demon, or perhaps something else entirely.
Robert Schmidt’s life is, for the most part, normal. He became a wealthy man working for an oil field services company and fell in love with Sonia Muñoz García in Madrid, the two ultimately welcoming daughter Nora. But Robert is tormented by a burned boy he encountered while driving across country to his parents’ house. He suffered nightmares following the incident, but years later, while romancing Sonia, Robert again sees the boy, who this time threatens and chases him. The tortured man suspects the boy is a spirit or demonic being, but he also entertains ideas of schizophrenia or a repressed memory. Regardless, Robert can’t seem to erase him from his life, as the scarred boy repeatedly crops up no matter where Robert is. Despite shades of the supernatural, Lamb’s novel is more invested in telling Robert’s story as he woos Sonia. While he spends more and more time with Sonia, the impact of Robert’s initial confrontation with the boy gradually diminishes as the boy becomes merely a passing vision in his head. Later, more frequent appearances are unquestionably unnerving. In China, for instance, the boy is Chinese and speaking Cantonese; Robert reacts physically, but afterward, unsure whether the boy was real, he obsessively scours newspapers for an account of a Chinese boy being assaulted or killed. The ghost story plays like a subplot to Robert’s relationship with Sonia, though the couple’s yearslong romance tends to be depressing. Sonia can be cold, often denying or delaying sex and leaving Robert despondent. This leads to a weirdly formal partnership in which Robert asks permission prior to intimacy or even if he can be a part of their child’s life when Sonia decides to leave him (for a reason not wholly clear). Readers may be jolted by the drastic shift in the novel’s final act, which introduces a bevy of new characters. But those who stick around until the end will be rewarded with a smashing and gratifying conclusion that memorably explains what’s been going on.
The story of a man’s relatively sad life, but with enough preternatural occurrences to attract genre fans.