A House of Ghosts – W. C. Ryan

40789530It’s 1914, and Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering on his island off the coast of Devon in order to try to contact his two sons who were lost in the war. However, his guests each have their own agendas and, with the arrival of a storm, find themselves trapped on the island with the ghosts, their own secrets, and a killer.

The surface appearance of this book is that it is a ghost story. The title and cover are a little but misleading, because it is, in reality, it’s a murder mystery novel with themes of espionage, most easily compared to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. It is a bunch of different characters, bought together for a weekend of seances and spiritual contact, trapped on an isolated island when a murder takes place. With the exception of Donovan and Kate – our two detectives sent to the island on a mission by the military – every character has a motive, so every character is a suspect. There’s plenty of tension and red-herrings to keep the story interesting.

I liked Kate and Donovan and their budding romance. They made a good team and I would be interested in more books following them on future missions. I also really liked Count Orlov, but some of the other characters were a bit weaker and not so well developed throughout the book (Madame Feda and Captain Miller-White, in particular).

Despite not exactly being a key feature of the story, the ghostly elements do add a lot of atmosphere and really pad out the plot which was, at times, quite weak. I enjoyed this book, but I found it a bit too long and I did get lost occasionally trying to work out the point of every direction the plot went in.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Folcroft Ghosts – Darcy Coates

33840674.jpgWhen their mother is hospitalised, Tara and Kyle are sent to live with their estranged grandparents in their isolated country house. At first, May and Peter Folcroft seem like the perfect grandparents: doting, generous and charming. But strange things start happening. The house seems to be haunted and, after a storm cuts the phone lines, May and Peter start acting weird too. Tara and Kyle are forced to play happy families as their suspicions towards their grandparents grow.

I love ghost stories, scary or not. The Folcroft Ghosts has as much atmosphere as any spooky story needs, although it did feel at times as though the plot was being forced along a little, and it was never really genuinely creepy.  It’s a short book, so it gets to the point fairly quickly, with spooky activity beginning very early on. This builds into a pretty good plot-twist and, the only genuinely unsettling part of the book, a very spine-tingling ending.

My only real issue with this book is that it isn’t really about the ghosts, or a haunting. I won’t say any more on this because I don’t want to give spoilers, but looking at the title and the cover, I expected the ghostly theme to play a much bigger part.

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Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders

33654875During the American Civil War, President Lincoln’s beloved son, Willie, died. Newspapers report that Lincoln returned to his son’s crypt alone to grieve for his boy. Using this seed of history, George Saunders weaves a supernatural story of familial loss. Willie Lincoln finds himself trapped in a transitional realm known as the bardo, while other trapped spirits try to encourage him to move on and squabble amongst themselves over the best way to make this happen. Told over the course of a single night, this story describes the monumental struggle Willie faces following his death, and explores grief among both the living and the dead.

The narrative style of this book is unique. The majority is told through the voices of the characters (very similar to a play-script), with some chapters built from excerpts of historical texts. This style took some getting used to and often took the story on rambling tangents, but was a very effective way of telling the story.

I loved the characters. Willie meets lots of different ghosts in the bardo, who all have their own stories and kooky personalities. There are some bizarre features (like Hans Vollman’s giant member) which I didn’t really understand the point of but they certainly helped to enhance the eccentric, unconventional vibe of this book.

I would recommend Lincoln in the Bardo, not because it’s an excellent story, but simply for the experience of reading it. It is unusual, with a unique style and a good enough plot. A modern classic, definitely deserving of its Man-Booker Prize win.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Blog Tour: Ghost Virus – Graham Masterton

Today is my stop on the tour for Graham Masterton’s gory Ghost Virus. Thank you very much to Head of Zeus for having me; I hope you enjoy my review!

38195824A series of violent murders break out in the Tooting area of London, inexplicably linked by items of second-hand clothing. DC Pardoe and DS Patel are assigned to the case and, as the murders continue and get more and more gory, they start to wonder is something supernatural is behind the killing.

Ghost Virus was a LOT more gory than I was expecting. It’s the kind of book where crime/mystery and horror cross over – not for the faint hearted or easily grossed-out. But, at the same time, the graphic details weren’t unnecessary or merely there for shock factor; they were a part of the story, making them an unpleasant but effectual feature of the book.

To be honest, the premise sounds completely ridiculous: clothing becoming possessed by evil spirits and killing people. Not only that, but apparently the clothing is unstoppable (my first thought: grab a flame thrower). But, in fact, it’s great. I loved the writing. The detectives are classic (fictional) British cops, the kind we see all the time on telly and love. (There was a lot of cockney slang used throughout the book, though, which non-British readers mind find difficult to understand).

The relationship between Jerry and Jamila felt genuine and was fun to read about. They came across as believable partners with an attraction to each other, and none of it was forced. Thanks to the intense situation they find themselves in, neither of them act upon their feelings until a pretty realistic time, so the romance fitted into the story as a nice undercurrent and never eclipsed the plot.

Overall, Ghost Virus is gory, gross and a lot of fun. Definitely worth a go.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Silent Companions – Laura Purcell

untitledIn this gothic ghost story, newly widowed Elsie goes to live in her late husband’s country estate with his cousin, Sarah. In their exploration of the house, Elsie and Sarah come across an incredibly lifelike, painted, wooden figure – a silent companion. Taken with the figure, the women move it into the main rooms of the house, but when it starts to move from room to room, seemingly by itself, and new figures start to appear they begin to question their safety and their sanity.

The Silent Companions is genuinely unsettling and very well written. As a full-length novel, the plot is well thought-out and fully developed. There are no unnecessary or over-the-top embellishments, while the ghostly occurrences are creepy to say the least.

Elsie’s story is very interesting: We find her committed to an asylum and accused of murder, and follow her story of what happened in the house as she recounts it to the doctor. She has a strong back-story with an abused childhood which makes the questioning of her sanity and strength throughout the story much more believable. I also enjoyed the loyalty and friendship between the women – lovely to see women in fiction backing each other up instead of tearing each other down!

This story contains all the elements of a classic gothic horror, and the slow build of tension is very effective. I did, at times, get a little confused about who I was reading about with the dual narrative, but besides that Laura Purcell has pulled off an almost-flawless piece of spooky-horror.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Keeper of Lost Things – Ruth Hogan

33828677.jpgAnthony Peardew is the keeper of lost things. Collecting lost items and writing stories about them, he has been seeking redemption for losing an important keepsake himself. As the end of life nears, Anthony leaves all his belongings and his quest to return the lost items to their owners to his assistant, Laura. She inherits his treasures, his house, and the irritable ghost living in it. As the new keeper of lost things, Laura strives to uncover the key to Anthony’s redemption and lay the spirits to rest.

I really liked the inclusion of ghosts in this story. They’re relevant and active, but they don’t take over the story. The focus is very much on the living.  We follow two timelines, one with Anthony and Laura, the other following Eunice and Bomber. The two timelines are loosely connected, but the link is tenuous until the end, so it is very much like reading two separate stories at once. The book also includes short stories about the lost objects. This was a nice detail but the many different stories did detract from the main plot at times. There’s good character development within both timelines, which is quite impressive considering the array of different characters. However, I found it hard to bond with the characters, especially Eunice. Whether this was because I had very little in common with them or because there were just so many of them, I can’t be sure. In some ways, I found Bomber’s ghastly sister Portia the easiest to understand (although it’s possible that this says more about me than about the book).

The Keeper of Lost Things is a very interesting story. I liked the general concept, liked the ghostly aspect and the diverse characters (namely, Sunshine), and there was a nice amount of humour and romance. But I didn’t love it. I didn’t find it especially charming or moving, and I was never fully drawn into the story. It’s good, but it’s not great.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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