>> Monday, July 07, 2014
Sarah Piper's lonely, threadbare existence changes when her temporary agency sends her to assist a ghost hunter. Alistair Gellis-rich, handsome, scarred by World War I, and obsessed with ghosts- has been summoned to investigate the spirit of nineteen-year-old maid Maddy Clare, who is haunting the barn where she committed suicide. Since Maddy hated men in life, it is Sarah's task to confront her in death. Soon Sarah is caught up in a deperate struggle. For Maddy's ghost is real, she's angry, and she has powers that defy all reason. Can Sarah and Alistair's assistant, the rough, unsettling Matthew Ryder, discover who Maddy was, whereshe came from, and what is driving her desire for vengeance-before she destroys them all?
It's 1922 and Sarah Piper is making ends meet by temping. Her jobs usually involve boring secretarial work, but not the latest job she's offered by her temp agency. Her employer would be Alistair Gellis, a wealthy young war veteran, and what Alistair wants from Sarah isn't secretarial work. Far from it; Alistair is a ghost hunter, and his latest case involves a haunting by a man-hating ghost. He hopes Sarah will be able to do the direct contacting of the ghost, which is the bit that won't work quite as well for him.
Sarah is reluctant initially, but she accepts and sets off with him to the small village where the ghost resides. There they are joined by Matthew Ryder, Alistair's usual assistant and also a war veteran. Sarah doesn't quite believe in ghosts, but is willing to go along with the man who's paying her salary. However, before too long, there are no doubts left in her mind.
The ghost is real. She's the ghost of Maddy Clare, a young maid who hanged herself in a barn and is now haunting it, terrifying anyone who comes close. Alistair's plan works, and Sarah is able to communicate with her, after a fashion. Maddy is very angry and very powerful. She wants revenge for whatever it was that drove her to suicide, and she demands Sarah help.
This one was a bit of a mixed bag for me. There were certain things that I thought worked wonderfully. First and foremost, the haunting itself is really well done. The ghost of Maddy Clare really is quite scary, and the author succeeds in creating an extremely creepy atmosphere. I also liked Sarah very much. She is a woman who really does value her independence, even if it means that she has to scrimp and save. She's sensible and knows her own mind, and this manifests in a low-key way. Finally, I liked the setting, even if it was a bit shallow, more atmosphere than exploration of the world in the 20s (to be honest, this story could have been set in quite a few other time periods with a tiny number of adjustments).
There are several negatives, though. Much as I enjoyed the ghost story, I found myself very uncomfortable with the priorities of our ghost-hunters. The focus seemed to be a lot more on the threat from Maddy, and how to make the scary ghost go away, and not so much on what happened to her and making sure the culprits be made to pay for it. Those Maddy wanted revenge against were dangerous people; who's to say they wouldn't do the same thing to someone else? That doesn't seem to worry them particularly.
I was just as uncomfortable with the romance. It felt tacked on and unnecessary, with Sarah's love interest being paper-thin as a character. I was also quite disturbed by the rapey way in which it starts, especially considering what we're discovering at the same time about what happened to Maddy. It would have been a better book with that element pruned out.
MY GRADE: A C+.