The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read this for the Terrifying Women square for Halloween Bingo
“The ghost in Waringstoke is female,” he explained. “She was, apparently, a servant girl who worked for the family. She hanged herself in the barn at the age of nineteen.”
I've been wanting a more creepy Halloween Bingo story and this delivered. Told in first person, Sarah gets a call from her temp agency telling her about a job opportunity. She's to be an assistant to Alistair Gellis, who turns out to be young, rich, handsome, and oh, a ghost hunter. Sarah doesn't necessarily believe in ghosts but she needs the money and has been feeling adrift.
“Please tell me. Why was your husband afraid of Maddy?”
Tears began to course down her cheeks. She seemed hardly aware of them. “He always said—he always said that night she came, she looked like she’d been buried. She looked like she’d come from a grave. My husband believed Maddy was dead before she even came to Falmouth House."
The story starts rolling right away and keeps a very quick pace, you'll want to devour this story in one sitting. The story is somewhat tight knit starting off with our heroine Sarah, Alistair bringing her into the mystery, Alistair's assistant Matthew, our ghost Maddy Clare, and a handful of townspeople. I immediately started side-eyeing people as their personalities and actions seemed dark and murky. The first person dialogue was a double edged sword for me as it kept the mystery alive but also felt like forced manufacturing mystery and drama.
Matthew’s words hung between us, the war a chasm that could not be traveled. I could not go there; he could not come back.
The ghost story is pretty front and center but a close second is the discussion of World War I and all the emotional and mental damage that did to Alistair, Matthew, and others. A more distant third was the romance between Sarah and Matthew, I even want to hesitate to call it romance because it kind of pops in jarringly and then hovers at the edges. At times it felt like there were some hitches in the juggling act between the three, I think a longer page count allowing the romance to be given more time and depth and a longer time spent with the characters dealing with PTSD would have given this a more even flow.
Heels, barefoot, kicking against the wall. Something sat in the sill of the high window, and kicked its heels as it dangled its feet. It was behind me, only six feet away.
I thought the mystery was done well but as an avid horror movie watcher, I've see this type of story done before (a similar movie (view spoiler)[Gothika (hide spoiler)]) and was able to guess what some of the answers were halfway through. You'll be devastated and probably start wanting to bend your moral feelings on accepted justice. The creepy factor was still done really well here and thinking I knew what was going on didn't stop me from looking extra hard into corner shadows as I went to bed. I definitely recommend this if looking for a spooky story that deals with some discussion about PTSD or battle fatigue as it was referenced as after World War I, first person pov that will keep some character mystery alive, a romance that could be described more as intensity, and a ghost that will have her revenge.
I screamed, but I tasted their blood, she said, as if I had not spoken. Each of the three. They each tasted different. I took orders, but I knew I would taste it again. Every one of them. I will do it, little girl. I will have my revenge.
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