Name: A House of Ghosts
Author: W. C. Ryan
Number of Pages: 432 (Hardback)
Published: October 4th 2018 by Zaffre
A gripping mystery with a classic feel: And Then There Were None meets The Silent Companions.
Winter 1917. As the First World War enters its most brutal phase, back home in England, everyone is seeking answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives.
At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon coast, Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to contact his two sons who were lost in the conflict. But as his guests begin to arrive, it gradually becomes clear that each has something they would rather keep hidden. Then, when a storm descends on the island, the guests will find themselves trapped. Soon one of their number will die.
An isolated island, a grand old mansion with a long history, a group of people many of whom are grieving missing relatives and in search of answers from the séance and a whole host of more earth-based secrets and scheming sets up this book for an interesting read.
This is certainly more mystery than ghost story, although the lingering spectral presences that Kate observes standing around watching proceedings added a little something at first; it’s almost like an Agatha Christie mystery with ghosts. But if you’re going into this expecting the supernatural element to be at the forefront then it’s probably not going to meet that. Also, as I ventured further into the book I felt that the story would have been the same with or without the ghosts.
A House of ghosts is set during the First World War, and within government there is evidence that certain important secrets have found their way into enemy hands, which leads our two main characters Kate Cartwright and a man currently going by the name of Donovan out to a remote island, ostensibly to participate in a séance, but their real purpose is to seek out the truth about possible spies.
The claustrophobia of being trapped by a fierce storm and rough seas, without contact to the outside world, surrounded by people who may be more than they are pretending to be was well done, as is the mystery at the heart of the story.
I liked the two central characters, Kate and Donovan and the way their relationship develops. There are plenty of potential suspects to investigate in the form of aristocrats, doctors, a troubled soldier who claims to see ghosts, and two well-known mediums. Kate’s ex-fiancé, her parents and several other people are also present at the gathering at Blackwater Abbey.
A House of Ghosts is a mystery tale at heart – espionage, lies, traitors and secrets, with a hint of potential romance. An enjoyable read for this time of year.