cover image The Lazarus Hotel

The Lazarus Hotel

Jo Bannister. St. Martin's Press, $22.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-312-15565-0

Demonstrating a gift for precise and evocative language, Bannister has written such bold and original works as No Birds Sing and A Bleeding of Innocents, both in the Castlemere series. Leaving that series aside, the British author offers a stunning re-creation of--and ambitious extrapolation from--Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. Hundreds of feet above London in a partially constructed hotel, six curious and troubled people meet for a weekend long therapy session. Unclear at first, it turns out that each of the six had something to do with tennis star and apparent suicide Cathy Beacham--whether as a lover, parent, friend, agent, doctor, coach or, finally, the last person to see her alive. As those gathered gradually understand their connection, strange, violent doings interrupt their therapy course. A feral boy roams the building; one person is hit on the head; another falls down an elevator shaft. Bannister burrows furiously inside a cramped tunnel of a plot, relying a bit too much on offstage, chapter-ending screams and revelations somewhat predictably delivered. But Bannister superbly develops this tale's understated menace, transforming the stilted unreality of the novel's premise into a tangible aspect of the sinister nightmare in which the six captives are trapped. (Aug.)