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The Secret of Lost Things    by Sheridan Hay order for
Secret of Lost Things
by Sheridan Hay
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

Author Hay has a gift for characterization. The Secret of Lost Things is peopled with several eccentrics, but all of them are truly interesting and well developed. Rosemary, a young eighteen-year-old, has arrived in New York from Tasmania, where she was recently orphaned. She has little money and needs to find a job quickly. The Arcade, a store for used and rare books, is the answer. There, she finds herself alongside an empathetic transsexual, a scheming albino, a coldly calculating manager, and a gruff, controlling owner.

From abject ignorance Rosemary grows to important knowledge about a possible discovery of a rare book. Each of the staff members wants to get his hands on the manuscript, and this brings out all the jealousy and greed that is an undercurrent in the store. Despite her feelings of cowardice Rosemary manages to deal with the situation and these people.

The story of Rosemary's growth greatly overshadows the discovery of a lost Melville manuscript. In the first part of the book there is a wonderful development of Rosemary's life and her introduction to the world of The Arcade. Beginning with the letter about the manuscript, things start to get murky, possibly because the book is written in the first person and we can't truly get inside the other characters.

All the Melville quotations and suppositions do not add up to a literary mystery after all. But it is still an interesting story with a lyrical end that is both an affirmation of Rosemary's growth and a trance-like summation of what possibly could have been but never was.

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