I love a good ghost story – especially a Gothic ghost story. Susan Hill and Sarah Waters are particular favourites of mine in this genre and I’m partial to a creepy, atmospheric tale that makes me want to lock the book away in the freezer when I go to bed, just to be sure I’m safe from it. When I saw Haverscroft was being serialised by the Pigeonhole on-line book club, I signed up (Thank you Pigeonhole) excited by the promise of a dark, troubling tale seemingly involving all the best kind of elements – a creepy old house, a creepy ex-house owner harbouring long dead secrets hidden away behind locked doors, a couple not really communicating with each other, some cute kids and a dog, and a village that likes to keep its secrets to itself. It appeared to have all the ingredients needed for a good old scary read.
Kate Keeling, her husband Mark and their 8 year old twins are moving from London into a big old neglected house in a quiet village, at Mark’s insistence. Kate and Mark are having problems stemming from some sort of issues she’s had in the recent past and there is very little trust or communication between them. Despite the house clearly being a death trap and ‘strange things’ happening, Mark disappears off to work in London repeatedly leaving Kate and the kids rattling around and tells them to stop being stupid about it. Putting it bluntly, Mark comes across as an absolute pig of a man, ignorant, uncaring and dismissive, and Kate is an utter doormat who constantly questions her own state of mind and does things that just don’t make any sense. So much so I was convinced she was being set up to be an unreliable narrator, and not very subtly.
Unfortunately the book just didn’t gel together the way I needed it to. It was a frustrating read for me because while the premise was good and at times the storytelling was brilliant and really drew me in, it was also, at times, pretty bad and disjointed. Overall, the biggest problem I had with Haverscroft is that it doesn’t really seem to know what it’s supposed to be; a creepy gothic supernatural horror or a bog-standard whodunnit.
Another irritation, although small, was that this was an advance copy and it was absolutely littered with errors but that’s ok, you know (or hope!) that the errors will get picked up in the editorial process before publication, but it was more than that; there is a lot of inexplicable behaviour that feels crowbarred in to further the plot, obvious foreshadowing, too many plot ends, inconsistencies and plot holes and the ending was disappointingly rushed to say the least. It’s just not that clear what has been going on and by the time I finished the book felt I had more questions than I had answers.
Again, I can only reiterate – frustrating. I hate to write a bad review but I can’t in all honesty give this book any higher than a 2.5. All of the elements were there and the writer is clearly skilled at descriptive writing, but this one just didn’t do it for me. You can see from the reviews though that people either seem to love it or hate it, so who knows which camp you’ll fall into!