Faithless – Hunter Shea

Father Raul Figeuroa, an Episcopalian priest, had it all. Bella, his loving wife. Abel, his son. Lizzy, his daughter. A happy life. Until his family are brutally murdered.

“It’s better you don’t go in there.”

Raul’s faith dies with his family. He gives up the priesthood, planning to live out his days in seclusion on his aunt’s farm. His only company will be the alcohol and pills which, if he does it right, will reunite him with his family soon.

Except Raul’s not alone on the farm.

This was a different book than what I was expecting. Hunter Shea has made an urban legend come to life. He’s shown me what New York rats are capable of. He’s even given me a final girl to hang out with. I thought I knew where this book was going. I was so wrong.

Prayers would not be answered here.

Much of this book highlights the way grief haunts you and some of the ways we self destruct in our attempts to numb pain, but because it’s a Hunter Shea book there’s more to the story than that.

I loved Raul’s childhood friend, Felix, and was ready to adopt Bruiser, the Maine Coon that scratched its way into my heart. I really enjoyed getting to know Raul and Felix and following them down some pretty dark paths.

I didn’t completely buy into the explanation for what was really going on and the ending raised some theological question marks in my brain but I was still hooked for the entire ride.

I can’t wait to find out what will be causing the bloodshed in the author’s next book.

It was time to poke around the dark places.

Content warnings include addiction, alcoholism, racial slurs and suicidal ideation.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Flame Tree Press for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

How do you survive hearing your family being brutally murdered over the phone? For Father Raul Figeuroa, all faith and hope are lost. Turning away from the priesthood behind, he retreats to his aunt’s empty farmhouse in upstate New York, hoping to drink himself to oblivion. But he’s not alone in the house. Something is trying to reach out to him. Or is he losing his grip on reality? When his childhood friend Felix comes to visit, things take a darker turn. The deeper they dig into the mystery, the closer they get to hell literally breaking loose. 

August’s Eyes – Glenn Rolfe

Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)

“We all make our acquaintance with the Ghoul. That’s just … inevitable.”

Spears Corner is a town with twelve graveyards and a bloody history. It’s where both the Ghoul of Wisconsin and John Colby grew up. John’s about to learn that even when you forget the past, that doesn’t mean the past forgets about you.

This is a world where dreams and reality converge, one that will make you highly suspicious of green vans.

If only there were a way he could make his Graveyard Land last forever. He’d do anything to stay with his boys.

I enjoyed this book, although I never felt the need to look over my shoulder. Maybe I’ve consumed so much horror that I’m somewhat immune to it now. I don’t remember the last fictional story I read that scared me (real life often freaks the hell out of me though).

I liked John, flaws and all, and loved Pat, despite him bordering on being too perfect. There’s a significant amount of disturbing content in this book but thankfully the descriptions were sparse for the part I was dreading. I enjoyed the supernatural elements and although he was absolutely detestable, I wanted to find out more about how the Ghoul created his Graveyard Land.

This is my first read by this author but I very much doubt it will be my last. I’m intrigued to see what else they have to offer.

“The dead are dead, but that don’t mean they’re gone.”

Content warnings include mention (some only briefly) of addiction, alcoholism, death by suicide, emotional abuse, homophobia, kidnappings, miscarriage, murder, physical abuse, racism, sexual assault, slavery and transphobia. If you have arachnophobia, this may not be the book for you.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Flame Tree Press for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When dreams start bleeding into reality, a social worker is forced to face the mistakes of his past.

A serial killer has found a way to make his land of graveyards a sinister playground to be bent at his sadistic will.

The secrets behind August’s eyes will bring two worlds together, and end in a cataclysm of pain and ruin.

The Raven – Jonathan Janz

Humans have always been monsters. We just needed a push to embrace our shadow side.

In a world of monsters, Dez is a Latent. That sounds fancy, like his superpowers are just about to emerge. It actually means Dez is one of the few people that don’t have any powers, which is especially unfortunate considering he’s surrounded by cannibals, vampires, werewolves and satyrs. Dez has managed, against all odds, to survive for two years since the Four Winds but any moment could be his last.

Although it was the promise of monsters and blood spatter that drew me to this book, it was Dez himself that sucked me in. Despite all of the horrors he’s witnessed and participated in to stay alive, he has retained his humanity. He still has feelings. The grief and guilt he lives with for surviving while so many of his loved ones didn’t threatens to consume him. Although the odds are very slim that she’s still alive, Dez maintains hope of finding Susan, who he last saw being dragged away.

I learned enough about Dez’s personal history to become invested in his survival. The details provided about the various monsters enabled me to picture them, but I also understood that Dez still has a lot to learn, if only he can survive long enough.

So much blood is shed you could probably swim laps in it. I’m a huge fan of visceral horror so loved the descriptions of the carnage, where “shredded guts oozed like wine drenched cutlets” and a “chest was a wicker weave of stringed meat”.

I’m really hoping for a sequel that will take me to Blood Country. Some answers are given in this book. New people and monsters are introduced, and many are eviscerated, bludgeoned and ripped to shreds. But we’re on a journey here, and we’re not even close to the finish line. We need to search for loved ones, get to know new acquaintances (who are hopefully trustworthy) and battle more monsters.

This book surprised me in the best possible way. When I first saw the cover image I found it striking but didn’t really think it was signalling that this was the book for me. It was the blurb that enticed me and I’m so glad I took a chance on The Raven because it was a winner. I’m definitely going to be seeking out more books by this author.

Content warnings include mention of death by suicide, drug addiction and sexual assault. I’m all for slicing and dicing so I was keen for the gruesome deaths, though I was concerned about the satyrs and the potential for on page sexual assaults. Thankfully, while past assaults are mentioned, graphic details were not provided.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Flame Tree Press for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Fearing that mankind is heading toward nuclear extinction, a group of geneticists unleash a plot to save the world. They’ve discovered that mythological creatures such as werewolves, vampires, witches, and satyrs were once real, and that these monstrous genetic strands are still present in human DNA. These radical scientists unleash the bestial side of human beings that had been dormant for eons, and within months, most people are dead, and bloodthirsty creatures rule the earth. Despite the fact that Dez McClane has no special powers, he is determined to atone for the lives he couldn’t save and to save the woman he loves. But how long can a man survive in a world full of monsters? 

Misfits – Hunter Shea

You know how it feels when you discover the urban legend that terrified you as a child is actually real? Mick, Marnie, Chuck, Heidi and Vent do. Everyone who lives in Milbury, Connecticut know better than to step foot on Dracula Drive.

Dare to walk,

Down Dracula Drive,

In day or night,

You won’t survive.

They wait in trees,

And hide below,

Hungry for people,

Too blind to know.

After one of them is brutally raped, they all want payback. It’s time to find out if Melon Heads are simply the stuff of legends or if there really are cannibals living in the forest. It’s going to get bloody!

“What do we have to lose … besides everything?”

This book was a lot darker than I was expecting. With sexual assault as the precursor for all of the bloody, bone crunching, insides are now your outsides action, I was initially torn. If I didn’t already have some trust in its author I probably wouldn’t have even attempted this book.

I’m always wary of how sexual assault is going to be portrayed within horror. It’s certainly not sugar coated in Misfits so this could easily trigger some readers. However, while the physical and psychological impacts of this trauma are undeniable, the character whose assault becomes the catalyst for everything that comes later is portrayed as resilient.

Usually I cheer on the squishy demise of horror characters. Sure, there were a few lambs to the slaughter whose bloodshed felt like poetic justice, but I really liked the five stoners and was invested in their survival. They quickly became real to me and the fact that they were all underdogs endeared them to me as much as their friendship and individual personalities.

“Aw, you called me a freak. That’s the nicest thing you ever said to me.”

I had planned on cheering on any Melon Head eviscerations or limb extractions I witnessed. Unexpectedly, my curiosity overrode my bloodlust. I wanted to spend time with them to learn more about their history and way of life.

Prior to this book I’d never heard the Melon Head urban legend and spent an embarrassing amount of time thinking that was the name of a band from my childhood. Over halfway through the book I finally enlisted Google’s help. They were Blind Melon, not Melon Head, dufus!

This was definitely not the B grade horror I had hoped for. It was actually better. It’s probably going to take me a while to forgive the author for the way the story unfolded for one of my favourite characters but kudos to them for making me care that much about someone I only met this week.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

Content warnings include alcoholism, child abuse, death by suicide, domestic violence and sexual assault. Readers with emetophobia may have trouble with some scenes.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Flame Tree Press for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

During the height of the 90s grunge era, five high school friends living on the fringe are driven to the breaking point. When one of their friends is brutally raped by a drunk townie, they decide to take matters into their own hands. Deep in the woods of Milbury, Connecticut, there lives the legend of the Melon Heads, a race of creatures that shun human interaction and prey on those who dare to wander down Dracula Drive. Maybe this night, one band of misfits can help the other. Or maybe some legends are meant to be feared for a reason. 

Tomb of Gods – Brian Moreland

Spoilers Ahead!

“We are standing at the threshold of one of life’s great mysteries”

Dr Harlan Riley hadn’t been the same since he was found “wandering the desert southeast of Cairo”. Scars covered his body and he alternated between speaking an unknown language and uttering cryptic warnings. It is five months months after his death, in March 1937, when a team of British archaeologists find Nebenteru’s tomb, whose secrets Harlan took to the grave.

I have witnessed miracles. Nightmares. Forgotten realms.

Leading the team is Dr Nathan Trummel. His own personal team is made up of assistant, Piper, blind psychic, Dyfan, and bodyguard, Aiden Gosswick. They are joined by mercenaries, Sergeant Dan Vickers and Corporal Teddy Quig, and a guard, Corporal Rex Sykes. 

An Egyptian guide, Bakari Neseem, an American photographer on assignment for National Geographic, Caleb Beckett, and a number of labourers, archaeologists and students round out the team. With this many volunteers signing up to enter the final resting place for an unknown number of explorers, it’s fairly certain the pharaoh’s tomb is likely to become many of theirs.

Late to the party is Imogen, an expert in Egyptian mythology and Harlan’s granddaughter. Raised by Harlan and his sidekick on expeditions when she was a child, she’s likely to be quite useful in navigating the potential pitfalls ahead.

“Damned are we who enter the abyss.”

Once the bloodbath got under way the story went in a direction I hadn’t expected. The world building was extensive and it often felt like I was walking alongside the team, or perhaps somewhere closer to the middle of the group so whatever was coming next would get them first. 

Peoples’ true natures rose to the surface and tensions were high as the explorers faced their demons, and I’m sure the characters’ blood pressures increased each time they noticed sentences that commenced with:

Twelve explorers

All nine explorers

The eight explorers

I couldn’t help seeing parallels between Imogen searching her grandfather’s diary for clues and Indiana Jones using Henry’s diary to find the Holy Grail.

I grew up sharing my Nan’s love of Egyptology and know she would have loved this book. The way the mythology was injected into the storyline made me appreciate how much time the author must have spent researching it and had me Googling some unfamiliar names to figure out if they originated from history or the author’s imagination. When the lines between reality and fiction get blurry I know an author has well and truly sucked me in.

I had two main niggles:

  • The way the explorers made their way through the various gates was repetitive at times.
  • I felt the epilogue was unnecessary and its contents frustrated me. The chapter prior to this provided a natural end to the story for me and I wish it had concluded there.

“Something’s coming.”

Content warnings include death by suicide, murder, self harm, suicidal ideation, torture and war crimes.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Flame Tree Press for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Deep inside the tomb exists a hidden world of wonder and terror. 

In 1935, British archaeologists vanished inside an Egyptian cave. A year later, one man returned covered in mysterious scars. 

Egyptologist Imogen Riley desperately wants to know what happened to the ill-fated expedition led by her grandfather. On a quest for answers, she joins a team of archeologists and soldiers in Egypt. Inside a mountain tomb, they’ve found a technologically advanced relic and a maze of tunnels. Dr. Nathan Trummel believes this tomb leads to the most guarded secrets of the pharaohs. When the explorers venture deep into the caves, they discover a hidden world of wonder and terror.

We Are Monsters – Brian Kirk

Spoilers Ahead!

“It’s official. The Apocalypse has come to Sugar Hill.”

Alex, Eli and Angela work together in the forensics ward of Sugar Hill, which houses and treats the criminally insane. Angela is a social worker who is described by a friend as “Dr. Do Good by day and Little Miss Devil by night”. Alex Drexler is a psychiatrist whose views on treatment are diametrically opposed to those of his boss and mentor, Dr Eli Alpert, Sugar Hill’s Chief Medical Director. Eli’s approach is humanistic, with a focus on treating patients with dignity and respect. Meanwhile, Alex is in the process of trialling an experimental drug to cure schizophrenia.

Why did the mind have the capacity to create delusions? To hallucinate? To perceive the unreal? And why, so often, did such altered states appear to the perceiver as the actual reality? A world more real than this one.

When the funding for his trials is withdrawn, Alex winds up continuing his experiment. His latest subject is Sugar Hill’s newest patient, Crosby Nelson, the Apocalypse Killer. Because what could possibly go wrong when you use a mentally ill, traumatised serial killer as your guinea pig?!

More background information is provided about characters than I’m used to seeing in horror books. This took me out of the story initially although I could understand the relevance of this information later on. It’s not only the patients whose pasts haunt them and it’s not always obvious who should be a patient, especially when the workers’ own demons are revealed.

Either she is insane, or I am. Or nobody is. Or we all are. Either way, who am I to say?

The only character I really liked was Eli. I think I would have liked Crosby as well but I didn’t get much of a sense of who he was outside of his mental health and trauma histories. Fortunately it’s not necessary to love horror book characters. I enjoyed hoping Alex would get a taste of his own medicine and I couldn’t wait for a couple of other nasties to get their comeuppance.

At times it felt like a hallucinogen was wafting off the pages. I wasn’t always especially clear about what was really going on during the more trippy parts.

He was now unsure which reality had been a dream and which one was real.

If I’d encountered this sense of unease, not being able to easily discern reality, in another book I’d probably tell you it was a reason I didn’t like it. This book, though? It was like I was being given a glimpse into what life must be like all the time for some of the residents of Sugar Hill and it was scary to even contemplate living in their worlds.

While I’ve known a lot of people with various mental illnesses, my knowledge of schizophrenia and psychosis are limited to the DSM-5 and random articles and books I’ve read. Because of this I cannot comment on the accuracy of their depictions in this book but I didn’t come across anything that stood out to me as ‘there’s something wrong with this picture’ symptom wise.

Between the graphic violence (I almost DNF’ed this book when the dog died) and derogatory terms used for pretty much anyone you can think of, sometimes challenged but oftentimes not, this book isn’t going to be for everyone. If having anything uncomfortably close to your eyes makes you squeamish you may have trouble with some scenes.

Content warnings include addiction, alcoholism, child abuse, domestic violence, graphic death of a dog, homophobia, incest, mental health, mention of death by suicide, racism and sexual assault.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Flame Tree Press for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Some doctors are sicker than their patients. When a troubled psychiatrist loses funding to perform clinical trials on an experimental cure for schizophrenia, he begins testing it on his asylum’s criminally insane, triggering a series of side effects that opens the mind of his hospital’s most dangerous patient, setting his inner demons free.

Snowball – Gregory Bastianelli

Spoilers Ahead!

How to know if a Christmas horror book is for me in three easy steps:

  1. It’s a Christmas horror book!

2. Include this quote in the first chapter –

The snowman’s head rose, tilted back as its face came into view. Beneath the coal-black eyes and long crooked carrot nose was a black mouth grinning with two rows of sharp teeth.

3. Actually, I don’t need any additional information. Bah humbug!

“What was your worst winter memory?”

This Christmas Eve, during one of the worst snowstorms in New Hampshire’s history, a group of motorists are faced with the nightmares of winters past. Stranded on the highway with the snow building up around their vehicles, these strangers will learn there’s something that connects them. The past is coming back to bite them, possibly literally. Everything got screwed up at Christmastime. Featuring (amongst other creepies) snowmen, Krampus, a snowglobe and a toy maker who wants to play a game, our unwitting players have the odds stacked against them.

Lining up to freeze to death (if something worse doesn’t get them first) …

This is Toby Hodge’s final Christmas with his son, Evan, and his grandkids before he and his wife, Nell, move to Florida. A snowplow driver who’s lplowing his final stretch of highway before retirement, Toby is the first person we meet. The first person introduced in a horror story tends to either be the first victim or the main character. I was veering toward ‘hero’ until I learned he was about to retire.

In his late 40’s, Mason Drake is a parole officer. He and his wife, Joy, have been together for over 20 years. They have teenage children, Duncan and Daria. They have been arguing today. Joy got a tad too friendly with a coworker during an office Christmas party. Their arguing and Joy’s indiscretion may not bode well for them.

A trucker, Tucker Jenks had planned on visiting his sister in Cranford, New Jersey on his way to drop off electronics in Manchester before the storm. Trucker’s friend in northern New Hampshire is letting him stay with him instead, if he can make it there. He smokes a joint but he also loved his Nana, so his chances of survival are fair.

Dean Hagen flew in from Alaska after his mother called to tell him his father was in the ICU after slipping on ice and cracking his hip so he gets brownie points for that. However, he’d “been on a consulting assignment for the past two months there, winnowing out the expendable employees at a manufacturing plant.” The Christmas misery he’s dealt to others may attract some bad karma.

Graham Sawyer picked up his best friend, Clark Brooks, at Boston’s Logan airport. Graham’s wife, Natalie, had wanted Clark to take the bus instead and Graham probably should have listened to her. She’s waiting at home for him with their three daughters. Clark is a divorce attorney from Emeryville, California. They have the potential to be this story’s heroes but not all heroes survive.

Kirk Britton and his girlfriend, Sonya Tackett, are college students with one semester left before graduation. They’re on their way to Sonya’s parents’ home for the holidays. Kirk has a surprise planned for Sonya on Christmas morning but given the horror lore surrounding people who have sex, they’re probably both toast.

Shelby Wallace wasn’t supposed to be driving her two children home from their father’s but he’s drunk. Again. So Shelby is driving Luke (8) and Macey (10) home to spend Christmas with her. Shelby is comfortable in her damsel in distress routine and Macey is kinda whingey so I wasn’t overly attached to their survival. However, I liked Luke; he’s determined and willing to do what he can to be brave in really scary situations.

Werner and Francine Volkmann have been around the country in their RV visiting relatives. They planned to see grandchildren in New Hampshire for Christmas but were behind schedule, so they’re joining the other potential popsicles on the highway.

Finally, Lewis Felker spent Christmas Eve freezing outside a department store ringing his Salvation Army bell, collecting donations. Sure, he stole some of the money to finance his alcoholism but in theory all of that alcohol in his bloodstream should keep him slightly warmer than everyone else. He’s also the one who seems to figure out how dire everyone’s situation is first so maybe he has a chance after all.

I had fun reading this book. I expected more bloodshed and less background information about all of the characters although, to be fair, the relevance of the details of their worst winter memories became apparent as the story unfolded. The reasoning behind why this was happening to this specific group of people seemed a bit flimsy to me but the images of those snowmen helped distract me from most of my lingering questions.

[No, this toothy guy doesn’t line up with the descriptions in the book but I loved him and wanted to share him with you.]

“Things aren’t always what they seem to be.”

The two main questions that are still nagging me:

  1. Why is a Christmas horror story being released in January?

2. What was inside the box in Tucker’s truck?

“Will Santa still come if we’re not home in time?”

Content warnings include mention of death by suicide and alcoholism.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Flame Tree Press for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A group of motorists become stranded on a lonely stretch of highway during a Christmas Eve blizzard and fight for survival against an unnatural force in the storm. The gathered survivors realise a tenuous connection among them means it may not be a coincidence that they all ended up on this highway.

An attempt to seek help leads a few of the travellers to a house in the woods where a twisted toymaker with a mystical snow globe is hell bent on playing deadly games with a group of people just trying to get home for the holidays. 

Slash – Hunter Shea

This was bloody fun! So much blood! So much fun! Well, it was fun for me as a reader. I don’t think any of the characters were enjoying themselves as I cheered on from the sidelines during their bone crunching demise.

Ashley is a final girl, the lone survivor of the Hayden Resort massacre five years ago. Since that night she has lived with debilitating PTSD and the nightmare continues for her, inescapable whether she’s awake or sleeping.

Ashley preferred the silence, for within the soundless void, she would be able to hear … things, if they came near.

Ashley’s story may have concluded with her death by suicide (this is not a spoiler – it’s in the blurb) if not for her fiancé, Todd. He only knows snippets of what Ashley and her friends endured at the hands of the Wraith but Todd is convinced Ashley has left clues that will enable him to figure out the Wraith’s identity.

Todd and some friends take it upon themselves to visit the “thousand acres of crumbling resort” to investigate further. I bet they wish they hadn’t.

This is my first Hunter Shea novel but it will definitely not be my last. I adore slasher movies so having those scenes in book form, where my imagination can take the descriptions of what the characters are experiencing and run with them, was something I’ve been looking forward to. I was not disappointed. I love visceral horror deaths and they were not in short supply here!

I was pleasantly surprised by the emotional depth conveyed alongside the gore. I had expected lots of running, frantic dialogue and some good ol’ slicing and dicing. That was all there but there was also an authentic representation of PTSD with Ashley’s character and gut wrenching grief from Todd’s.

Whenever I encounter any stories with the potential for a final girl/guy I play a game of Who Will Survive? Because this is my game and I’m weird, I have rules about how this is played. As quickly as possible after meeting each character I have to decide, based on the limited information I have at that time, whether I think they will still have a heartbeat at the end of the story or not. I’m not allowed to change my vote, regardless of how much information I come across that contradicts my initial assessment.

“Try not to get us killed. Okay?”

Naturally I played Who Will Survive? while reading Slash. Even though I now know who bled out during this “night of horror and impossibilities” I haven’t edited my first impressions to match the outcomes, so you’ll have to read the book to find out who’s still breathing.

So, with that said, who are our victims contestants?

Todd – fiancé of the previous final girl and a man on a mission. Even though he wanders into horror no-no territory by saying, “I’ll be right back”, he’s the main character. Surely he lives to tell the tale, right?

Heather – Ashley’s best friend before she died. She’s caring and a good friend to both Ashley and Todd. I want her to survive so she and Todd can support one another after the blood dries.

Vince – Heather’s husband. I want him to survive because Heather is so lovely and I don’t want her to experience any more grief. However, I doubt both Heather and Vince will survive, so I’m expecting Vince to die at Hayden.

Jerry – Law enforcement don’t usually fare so well in horror stories. Jerry is a misogynist cop so he may die twice, if possible.

Bill – a gambler on a diet. Depending on how strict his diet is, he may not have sufficient energy to outrun a murderer. I think his odds are fairly slim.

Sharon – her older sister, Sheri, didn’t survive the previous massacre. She’s angry and impulsive, which could work for or against her. I’d hate for her parents to lose another child to this killer but I fear she’s going to leap before she looks at an inopportune time.

Elvira – the cat. The Wraith can kill all the humans they want, as long as they don’t hurt the cat. I want to believe Elvira is still purring at the end of this book.

Taylor – not part of the core group. He’s toast!

Kaitlin – also a stranger. Sorry, Kaitlin, but you don’t stand a chance.

“You think they’re all right?” Vince asked. “No one’s screaming. That seems to be the best way to assume things are okay in this place.”

If I wasn’t currently in danger of a TBR pile avalanche I would have already started rereading this book. I’m definitely going to be on the hunt for more Hunter Shea books.

Content warnings include death by suicide, PTSD and gory death scenes.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Flame Tree Press for the opportunity to read this book. Five blood soaked stars!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Five years after Ashley King survived the infamous Resort Massacre, she’s found hanging in her basement by her fiancé, Todd Matthews. She left behind clues as to what really happened that night, clues that may reveal the identity of the killer the press has called The Wraith. 

With the help of his friends, Todd goes back to the crumbling Hayden Resort, a death-tinged ruin in the Catskills Mountains. What they find is a haunted history that’s been lying in wait for a fresh set of victims. The Wraith is back, and he’s nothing what they expected. 

The Haunting of Henderson Close – Catherine Cavendish

There’s always been sporadic supernatural activity during the tours of Henderson Close. Occasionally visitors have experienced cold spots or seen shadowy figures, but when Hannah begins her new job as a tour guide the mysterious phenomena escalates. Hannah and her fellow tour guides, Mairead and George, are soon caught up in a series of events that they can’t explain. If anyone ever needed help from the Ghostbusters it’s this trio.

Oftentimes I’ll pick up a book that promises spectral encounters and I’ll eagerly anticipate the promised ghost, only to be disappointed that they show up right at the end. This book does not have that problem. Ghosts really did show up again and again. While I wasn’t scared I did look forward to each time something ‘spooky’ happened, including time slips and a little girl who would probably be really cute, if only she had a face.

I loved the way that historical Edinburgh came alive for me. As scenes in the 19th century were explained I could see them unfold around me, right down to the stench of the Old Town streets. I wanted to solve the mystery of who murdered Miss Carmichael and learn more about the girl with no face.

While I enjoyed finding out about the lives of the people who once lived in Henderson Close and its surrounds, I didn’t become emotionally attached to any of the characters, past or present. No matter what happened to the characters I felt like I was a passive observer, which appeared to diminish the impact of the horror they were experiencing. I appreciated the onslaught on supernatural activity but wonder if I would have cared more about what happened to our trio if more time was spent fleshing out their personalities.

I’m still not entirely clear about the sequence of events surrounding Mairead’s life and felt that the connections the characters had to Henderson Close were a bit flimsy overall. The ending seemed rushed and I’m left with unanswered questions. I would have preferred for a couple of Hannah’s family background scenes to have been deleted, especially the letter Hannah received from her ex (which I didn’t think added anything to the story). Instead I wish there’d been additional explanations as to why the story ended the way it did.

Thank you to NetGalley and Flame Tree Press for the opportunity to read this book. I’d be interested in reading more books by this author.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Ghosts have always walked there. Now they’re not alone …

In the depths of Edinburgh, an evil presence is released.

Hannah and her colleagues are tour guides who lead their visitors along the spooky, derelict Henderson Close, thrilling them with tales of spectres and murder. For Hannah it is her dream job, but not for long. Who is the mysterious figure that disappears around a corner? What is happening in the old print shop? And who is the little girl with no face?

The legends of Henderson Close are becoming all too real. The Auld De’il is out – and even the spirits are afraid.