Category Archives: Other Press

Mx3 Review: This House Is Haunted by John Boyne

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press (October 8, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1590516796
  • Source: Publisher

Twenty-one year old Eliza Cain lives alone with her father. The two share a fondness for the writing of Charles Dickens and, despite her father’s ailing health, the two attend a reading by Dickens himself. The cold, wet weather takes a toll on her father’s heath and he succumbs to the flu shortly thereafter.  Now an orphan and, learning they didn’t own their home outright, Eliza must find employment in order to sustain herself.

She responds to an advertisement for a governess in Norfolk. While the advertisement is vague, not mentioning how many children or their ages, Eliza is certain this is the first step toward a new life.   During her journey to Gaudlin Hall, Eliza has a nearly deadly experience that leaves her anxious and apprehensive about her decision.  That feeling increases upon her arrival at the old home, which seems to be without an adult presence watching over the two children.  The two children, a young boy and his sister, offer no explanation of their parents absence. Eliza’s sense of foreboding intensifies when yet another experience has her questioning the history (and occupancy, both living and dead) of Gaudlin Hall.  The townspeople change the subject when questioned about the Hall’s history and, only after much persistence, Eliza learns the truth about the deadly history behind Gaudlin Hall and what really happened to the young children’s parents. Unwilling to abandon the children, who have obviously experienced a great deal of loss already, Eliza alone faces Gaudlin Hall’s long-buried secrets, facing an evil obsessed with protecting the young children under her care.

I’m a huge fan of classic, Gothic ghost stories. Upon reading the summary of this novel and, already a fan of the author’s previous work, I knew I was in for a treat when reading This House Is Haunted. The premise of this novel (a young girl accepts a role of governess in a dark, remote mansion) is not unique, Boyne still manages to create a work guaranteed to send shivers down your spine.  Boyne’s fondness and appreciation of Dickens’ work is largely apparent in both the overall tone of the novel and in the characters names he uses (i.e. Cratchett).  Boyne also draws on the work of other literary greats and I found myself trying to determine the correlations as I read.

I am particularly fond of Eliza’s character. Forced into orphan-hood, she faces countless adversities. While she really never had to care for anyone but herself and, in the end, her father, Eliza quickly picks up the nurturing role in order to watch over the children in her care. Perhaps its her own experience with loss that urges her to go on despite the horrific accidents that transpired at Gaudlin Hall or, understanding the evil that roams the cold, dark halls only wants best for the children, although the execution of this maternal bond is deadly.

All together, Boyne has created in this novel all of the characteristics present in an outstanding Victorian ghost story, making this one of the “must-read” books of this Halloween season. Highly, highly recommended.

2013MX3

Review: The Reservoir by John Milliken Thompson

 

Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Other Press (June 21, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1590514440
Source: Publisher

One spring morning in 1885, the body of a young pregnant woman is found floating in Richmond’s city reservoir. At first glance, her death appears to be a suicide, but evidence points toward murder.

The young woman identified as Lillie, a young woman with a troubled family history.  The prime suspect in her murder is her own cousin, Tommie.

Tommie is a young lawyer, the source of pride for his family.  His brother, Willie, was his polar opposite.  A quiet farmer, he was initially the one who was courting Lillie. But Tommie & Lillie were drawn to one another, their love could not be stopped.

Despite the fact that Tommie took his love from him, and is now on trial for her murder, Willie remains by his side, doing whatever he can to make his brother’s time in prison comfortable.  This becomes more and more difficult as the evidence against his brother mounts.

The Reservoir is southern Gothic fiction at its finest; John Milliken Thompson does an outstanding job of portraying the society of Richmond post-Civil War. The setting, much as the scene of Lillie’s death, is dark, cold & dreary.

It’s more than just a murder mystery, adding compelling scenes of courtroom drama as well as psychological suspense to the mix.

Through the majority of the novel, the reader is left questioning Tommie’s guilt, or innocence.  Tommie’s own behavior doesn’t help the situation: one minute he’s proclaiming his innocence, the next he admits his guilt. It isn’t until the reader is able to remove the veil Tommie uses to shield himself from the world that they can truly see inside the mind of this seemingly perfect young man.

Thompson based The Reservoir on a true case in Richmond’s history, “T.J. Cluverius v. the Commonwealth.”  While Thompson added most of the pre-and post-courtroom drama, the actual court scenes are taken directly from the trial transcripts.  The fact that the author was able to add these details so seamlessly really indicates the talent in his writing.

The Reservoir is a book unlike any I have read in some time.  The mystery, the drama, and yes, even the love-triangle, held my attention from page one.  Fans of Southern Gothic or historical fiction will find a real winner in this one!  Highly recommended!

For more information on the author, and the story behind The Reservoir, be sure to check out his Web site.

For more reviews of The Reservoir, check out:

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