Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Haunting of Maddy Clare

Author: Simone St James
Genre: Historical Mystery, Canadian author
Type: Paperback
Pages: 318
ISBN-10: 0451235681
ISBN-13: 978-0451235688
First Published: March 2012
First Line: "The day I met Mr. Gellis, I had been walking in the rain."

Synopsis:  Set in 1922 England, friends Alistair and Matthew have returned as war veterans and have set up a paranormal investigator business.  They have been requested to look into the haunting of an establishment by a 19 year old maid named Maddy Clare.  The only problem?  Maddy is not only a very angry spirit but she hates men and will not communicate with them.  This leads Alistair to hire Sarah Piper, a young woman from a local temporary agency.

Sarah is a lonely young woman who hasn't had a very adventurous life thus far.  With no family and a few odd temp jobs she's eager for something to happen in her life.  Things are about to change for poor Sarah for when she meets and accepts the job from Alistair.  Initially Sarah is skeptical about this ghost hunting expedition but a very irate Maddy soon helps Sarah see that her previous views of ghosts may not be well-founded.  Unfortunately Maddy's tortured existence in life has caused her afterlife to be more than a little destructive to the living beings around her.  
My Thoughts: This was a hard book to review.  There were things that I really liked about it and others that I didn't care for.  While I was reading it I enjoyed it -- I didn't love it but thought it was a decent read.  But the more I thought about the book after I put it down the more I kept finding things that I didn't love about it.  This wasn't a bad read but it wasn't the best.  I'm going to try to explain my feelings ...

First off, I'm not a horror reader by a long shot.  I've never picked up a Stephen King and, in fact, I don't think I've ever read a horror read in my life.  I just don't think it's fun to scare myself.  I do like to read a really good suspense read but I don't want to be checking to see if someone is lurking in my closet after I put a book down.  I am a wuss.  That said this book had a wonderfully eerie, even sinister, feel to it ... in the first half of the book anyway.  Maddy was the star of the show and was used well to create a feeling of suspense.

Sarah's initial interactions with Maddy were chilling and filled with suspense. The author's descriptions of what Sarah felt and saw were so wonderfully vivid that I was literally on the edge of my seat. Unfortunately that's pretty much where the eerie feel to the book ended for me. After that, the book had less creepiness and became more about romantic relationships and a very predictable mystery. The thing is, I love to work out a mystery on my own. I truly dislike it when I can see the result coming a mile away.  I enjoyed learning some of Maddy's back story and understanding why she was so angry but as for the 'whodunnit'?  Very easy to predict.

What I did love about this book was the era in which it occurred.  I've never read (that I can remember anyway) a book set in between the two World Wars.  A time of the Roaring 20's was a very refreshing era to read about.  The setting, while interesting in its own right wasn't a focal part of the story which I was a little sad to see.  Hopefully in future books (?) we'll see more of the style and culture of the time.

As for the characters?  Let's start with the men folk -- Alastair and Matthew.  I pictured them as the yin and yang of manhood.  We have the Nyles Crane-like Alastair (a dapper gent with scads of money) and his best friend Matthew (the brawny manly man with a tortured soul and a hot bod).  Are these men clich├ęd?  Perhaps but they were enjoyable to read nonetheless.  I only wish Alastair was in the story more.  He seemed to disappear from the main storyline more than I would have liked.

Something I did love was learning about was Alastair and Matthew's friendship as well as how the author incorporated the after effects of WWI on these two war vets later on in the storyline.  I think it gave their characters a lot more depth (than they were initially given)and helped me to understand just how deep their bond goes.

Sarah Piper was a harder character to figure out.  She starts off as a timid, lonely single girl who doesn't have much going for her.  She seems very innocent and scared of the world in general.  She's a modern girl who is concerned with her reputation and we're given the feeling that she's fairly inexperienced in the romance department.  That's at the beginning of the book.  Towards the middle of the book a different Sarah emerges.  One that isn't quite as innocent as she was originally portrayed making Sarah a little incongruous to me.  Don't get me wrong, I liked her.  I was just a little shocked by some of her later behaviour that didn't jive with what I had previously read about her.  She went from school marm to boisterous flapper girl and I didn't see it coming.

My favourite character in the book has to be Maddy.  Poor, tragic, pissed off Maddy.  She's not your typical ghost who just wants to have some fun scaring some humans or sliming them.  She wants to scare people who come near her and she's out for revenge and blood!  She's a ghost with a definite mean streak.  Learning about why Maddy is so angry was a great part of the book for me.  I always love getting to know the 'why' behind a character's actions.

Now, about the romance.  Nothing says 'hey there good lookin'' like a ghost who wants to rip you to shreds, am I right?  Yes, there is a romantic element to the book, a rather large one actually.  The whole romance was OK but not necessary for me.  The first sexual scene was pretty offputting actually and not romantic in any way to me.  I  don't think it wasn't needed for the overall storyline and was only added for some added zing.  If it was supposed to increase the bond between the characters it didn't work for me.  If I'm being honest I would have preferred if their relationship was dragged out a bit so the mystery could be in the forefront of the story.

All in all, I liked the characters and the sinister feel but felt the actual mystery and romance just didn't cut it for me.  A good first book from a new (Canadian) author and I'm interested to see what other books she puts out in the future.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

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