Reviewed by Lynn Brown
It begins with a call one snowy February night. Lying in her bed, fourteen-year-old Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation: helping 'haunted souls' find peace. And yet something in Sylvie senses that this call is different from the others, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church's red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep, only to wake to the sound of gunfire.
As the story weaves back and forth through the years leading up to that night and the months following, the ever-inquisitive Sylvie searched for answers and uncovers secrets that have haunted her family for years . . .
I’ve never read any books by John Searles, but I was attracted to the book by the quote on the cover from Gillian Flynn – the author of “Gone Girl”, which I absolutely loved reading.
This is a difficult review to write, because I am not one for giving out spoilers on books, and so much of what I want to write could give the game away.
It’s true to say the book is a part psychological thriller and part a story of the paranormal, I must admit to being a little scared of reading this book at night. The author writes to great effect – letting your mind run wild on its own, as he hints at what’s happening, rather than penning outlandish tales of the paranormal. The quality of the writing is superb, I so love a book when you just make no effort to read it, it’s like you’re really there. Searles' writing just flows, you feel for his characters and I even got a little protective over some of them. Unusually for a thriller the author really takes time to give the characters dimension.
The story is told back and forth through the years, a style which is so often over used by author’s these days. However, in this case it actually added value to the story. Once you got used to the style and where the book was going it was as easy to go the past as continue into the future.
I had a few theories of my own about how this book would end. I’ve read a lot of books where I have been disappointed to have guessed the ending – not so with this book. It kept me guessing right to the end, and I was actually gasping out loud as the story unfolded towards the end of the book – always the sign of a good book for me!
I'd like to thank Kirsteen at Little Brown for sending us a copy of this book and Lynn for reviewing it for me.