Boyne, John. This House Is Haunted. Other. Oct. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781590516799. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781590516805. F
When Eliza Caine’s father dies unexpectedly in 1867, Eliza is left on her own in London, and as a result, she impulsively answers a somewhat cryptic advertisement seeking a governess at Gaudlin Hall in Norfolk. However, before she ever sets foot in Gaudlin Hall, a mysterious force seems intent on harming her. Eliza’s situation becomes even more baffling as she discovers that her two young charges, Isabella and Eustace, are living on their own in the manor house, their parents mysteriously absent. Everyone she meets wants nothing more than to avoid talking about Gaudlin Hall and its residents, present and past. The only thing that Eliza is certain of is that there is an entity in the house that wants her dead, and she must uncover the secrets of the house if she wants to protect the children and escape the fate of her predecessors. VERDICT While the title is rather uninspired, Boyne’s (The Absolutist) latest work is anything but. In this tribute to the classic 19th-century ghost story, Boyne follows in the footsteps of his literary forebears as the novel invokes elements of Charles Dickens (who makes a guest appearance), Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre), and Henry James (The Turn of the Screw). With well-drawn characters and surprising twists, this book will appeal to fans of horror and historical fiction as well as anyone who likes a good ghost story.
Setterfield, Diane. Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story. Emily Bestler: Atria. Oct. 2013. 224p. ISBN 9781476711959. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781476712000. F
William Bellman is just ten years old when he commits an act that will haunt him the rest of his life—the killing of an innocent rook. In adulthood, William is building the perfect life for himself with a gorgeous wife and a brood of children, as he works his way up at his family’s mill. But he and his family are stalked by creepy black birds. Tragedies slowly begin piling up—first friends and distant relatives, then his wife and children. At each funeral, he spies a man wearing all black. While waiting for his final child to die, William visits the grave of his wife and runs into the mysterious Mr. Black. William enters into a Faustian bargain with Mr. Black, saving his daughter and resulting in the development of Bellman & Black, a funeral emporium. VERDICT While billed as a ghost story, Setterfield’s (The Thirteenth Tale) sophomore effort seems more a gothic psychological study with the dark vibe of an Edgar Allan Poe tale. Lovers of true ghost stories may be disappointed, but fans of Setterfield’s best-selling debut will snatch this one up. [See Prepub Alert, 5/13/13.]