DAY NINE: Haunted by William Hussey book review

downloadMilton Lake is a seemingly ordinary town, where tales of hauntings and strange goings on ripple beneath the surface. When a mysterious boy comes to town – moving into a large, derelict house, all alone – his arrival changes everything. Shrouded in secrecy, he senses a kindred spirit in Emma Rhodes, and reveals to her a shocking truth.

Someone in Milton Lake is using the fabled Ghost Machine to call the spirits of the dead back to our world. Now it is up to these two lost souls to find out who is operating the strange invention before it is too late… For call by call, the dead will be unleashed.

A boy ventures into a ghost train at an abandoned funfair on a dare… Ghosts appear with cryptic messages from beyond the grave… A derelict house once owned by a mass-murderer stands at the centre of a mystery… There are many time-honoured ghost-story traditions in this tale of a small town with big supernatural problems, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. We can all be wooed into a false sense of security by familiar tropes. But if you think this is Scooby-Doo, you can forget it. Scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find that William Hussey has more than a few surprises in store.

I’m not going to ruin anything for you if I tell you a little about the central premise because, trust me – this story has more than enough twists and turns to keep you guessing right until the end. At the centre of this story is a very special invention, the Ghost Machine, a telephone that can be used to summon the dead. The great inventor Thomas Edison once alluded to having invented such a thing, and thanks to his track record, the impressionable public of the time were all too ready to take his word for it. He later dismissed it as a prank he had pulled to prove that journalists would print anything he told them. The story was all but forgotten – until Nick Redway and Emma Rhodes discover that such a machine does exist, and that someone in Milton Lake is using it to summon the dead in large numbers… (Might I add at this point that the dead who arrive in Milton Lake are not content with wafting around like regular ghosts. They have far more pressing needs in mind, and no soul is safe.)

I loved this idea, of taking a throwaway comment made by a famous inventor and exploring the what-if-it-were-true angle. It gives the events more of an edge, by linking them, albeit tenuously, to history. And there are also several mysteries intertwined in this tale. One is who, exactly, has got their hands on the Ghost Machine and is using it with alarming and ill-advised frequency? Another is who is Nicolas Redway, the boy who turns up in Milton Lake, and how does he know so much about how to deal with the rising dead? And what has happened to Emma Rhodes’ mother? Why did she leave so suddenly and what has become of her? The mystery, the suspense, and the little clues that appear in each chapter of this supernatural whodunit make it a real page-turner.

All of which is all very well, but for me it was really the characters that gave this book substance. Emma Rhodes is a troubled girl who has lost her little brother in an horrific accident and holds herself to blame. Her preoccupation with grief has led to her becoming isolated from her friends. And yet, for all her sadness, she is easy to warm to because of her determination, her sense of right and wrong and her desire to see things set right in the end. Nicholas Redway, meanwhile, is charismatic, enigmatic, and fascinating because he seems to know an awful lot about ghosts and how best to dispatch them! The two combine forces to make the perfect ghost-busting duo. Meeting Nick and the events that unfold force Emma out of her grieving shell, and so you get to see the character really develop as the story progresses. There are also some more peripheral characters that I would have perhaps liked to have seen more of – Emma’s cousin Henry and his awkwardly tall but lovable best friend Sas, for example. But there is only so much you can pack in to one story, I suppose! I’d like to see Emma and Nick again and wondered if they have more adventures in store – in fact, I shall be asking William Hussey that very question and others when he stops by tomorrow.

Thank you for visiting the Lil’ Bookshop of Horrors Today. Make sure you come back tomorrow, the final day, for an exclusive interview with author William Hussey.

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