Lacrimore by SJ Costello explores our relationship with grief and tragedy through a speculative lens. The gothic novel draws readers in with beautifully dark prose that builds a haunting world. While the story unfolds slowly, the flawed characters and mystery compel readers to turn the page.
The novel opens with Sivre Sen, a faithless medium journeying across a stormy lake to a small island. There sits Lacrimore, a crumbling labyrinth of a mansion shrouded by legends. During a vision, a ghost called her there to complete his funeral rites. In Costello’s Victorian-inspired world, mediums are revered and influential, especially after a recent epidemic. However, Sen has never before experienced visions of the dead. After arriving, she meets the dead man (who is still alive), a staff trapped by circumstances, and a dubious doctor in exile. As Sivre searches the house for answers and closure, she discovers dark secrets in its rotting walls. The book is like Lacrimore itself—a quiet, mysterious tale standing alone in a much larger world.
Though in development before the COVID-19, the novel was a poignant and refreshing take on pandemic literature. Instead of focusing on dystopian survival, the story centers on what happens after survival. How do we process our grief? How do we reflect on the societal failures that came to light? What change is required to be better? Lacrimore doesn’t claim to answers all these questions. It remains a spooky story that is fun to read, but opens the door for those who want to ponder its deeper themes.
Lacrimore by SJ Costello. June 2020.
Reviewer bio: Laura Kincaid is a writer, editor, and lover of the fantastical. Find her work in Twist in Time and at laurakincaidmusings.wordpress.com.