THE BOOK OF COLD CASES by Simone St.
Only Simone St. James can strike
exactly the right balance between a cold-case mystery and a ghost story, and I
enjoyed both elements immensely. Shea Collins’ passion is crime, especially
unsolved cases that still cast a shadow long after the media has lost interest.
A medical receptionist by day, Shea spends her nights looking into unsolved
murder cases on her true crime website “The Book of Cold Cases”. When she gets
the opportunity to interview Beth Greer, the woman suspected of having
committed Oregon’s infamous 1977 “Lady Killer Murders”, her excitement is hard
to contain. Little does Shea know that the can of worms she is about to open
will have far reaching consequences for both Beth as well as herself…
As is St James’ hallmark, her murder
mystery was spiced with an old, haunted mansion and a very unforgiving ghost
who does not take kindly to being disturbed. I loved the dynamics that
developed between Beth and Shea and the way we slowly got to uncover each
woman’s deepest secrets. I could never have predicted Beth’s!
The supernatural element added
something unusual to this cold case mystery and set it apart from other crime
novels on the market. It’s not easy striking just the right balance between
reality and the otherworldly, but St James manages that just fine. Listening to
the audio version with my noise cancelling headphones on made me become so
engrossed in the story that I had goosebumps.
THE BOOK OF COLD CASES will appeal
to readers who enjoy a solid murder mystery with a spicing of the otherworldly.
There is a fair bit of ghostly activity going on here, so a little bit of
suspension of disbelief is called for. I particularly enjoyed the haunted house
setting, which St James does so well, and the time travel to the 1970’s. A
perfect Halloween read!
GIRL IN ICE by Erica Ferencik
Ever since reading THE RIVER AT
NIGHT, I have greedily devoured everything Erica Ferencik has written, and I
was eagerly awaiting the publication of GIRL IN ICE. If you love a bleak,
claustrophobic, remote setting, then it doesn’t get much better than this,
because the author has chosen the Arctic Circle as the backdrop to her latest
Linguist Val Chesterfield is still
mourning the tragic death of her scientist twin brother on a remote outpost in Greenland
when she receives an intriguing invitation by her brother’s boss. A little girl
has been found in the ice, and no one can understand her language. Would Val
consider travelling to this remote place to see whether she can communicate
with the child? Despite being terrified of travel, Val accepts, realising that this
could be the opportunity to put some of her demons relating to her brother’s
death to rest.
GIRL IN ICE turned out much darker
than Ferencik’s previous books, offering a disquieting mix of genres, from
mystery to suspense to speculative fiction with elements of horror that made my
skin crawl. Aided by a claustrophobic setting and Val’s own demons, the story
took on a decidedly sinister turn when it was disclosed that the little girl
Val has travelled to see has been thawed out of the ice – alive. Whilst not
exactly in the league of the zombie apocalypse, the hint at the “undead” and
its implications, as well as other dystopian elements created a tense,
foreboding setting that really got under my skin.
I just wish that I could have liked
Val a bit more as a character. Whilst her anxieties and insecurities added an
element of the unreliable character, I would have liked to see a strong lead
tackling the sinister elements head-on, which may have added to the suspense
rather then getting bogged down in Val’s thought processes. I am also finding
that this trend of neurotic female characters who are medicating themselves is
getting a bit tired. It reminded me of a novel I read earlier in the year, THE
DARK (by Emma Haughton), with almost identical themes.
That said, the mystery of Sigrid and
the remote setting kept me reading eagerly to find out the answers, and even
though the ending was somewhat luke-warm, the overall reading experience was
satisfying. Whilst this is not my favourite Ferencik book, it’s definitely
worth grabbing when you’re in the mood for some armchair travel to a cold,
remote and forbidding landscape that hides a sinister secret.
THE SILENT COMPANIONS by Laura
I’m not sure why I thought it would
be a great idea to choose a spooky book for my weekend reading, because man,
this story was bleak! True, it did deliver plenty of goosebumps on the spooky
front, but I am struggling to find some sort of joy in life again after this
hopeless, sad tale.
Twenty-five-year-old Elsie has
narrowly escaped spinsterhood by marrying the handsome and enigmatic Rupert
Bainbridge, only son and heir to a large country estate. Their life together is
cruelly shattered by Rupert’s untimely (and extremely suspicious) death, seeing
a pregnant Elsie travel to the country manor husbandless to take over the
reigns of a resentful bunch of servants and villagers. As promised, the old
mansion delivers all the haunted house tropes: a locked attic door hiding
terrible secrets, an old nursery that comes to life only when Elsie enters, and
a bunch of creepy wooden figurines termed the “silent companions”. After being
haunted by these spectres, Elsie tries to find some answers in an old diary her
cousin has unearthed in the attic, which may explain some of the bumps in the
night. However, the house has not finished with Elsie yet …
I’m not quite sure how to rate this
book. On one hand, it was deliciously spooky, with the silent companions
popping up where you least expect them and making their menacing presence
known. On the other hand, there were few rays of sunshine to be had, so take a
good dose of anti-depressants before reading this one! Rupert is not the only
one who bites the dust in this story, nor is his death the most gruesome of
them all. And as for poor Elsie’s fate – well, I can’t give away any spoilers,
but karma really has it in for this girl. I discovered that I like my spooks
delivered with a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel, or perhaps I am
just feeling fragile?
All in all, THE SILENT COMPANIONS
will deliver if you love a spooky old mansion that oozes menace and tension out
of every window. It also covers two separate timelines that come together to
explain most (if not all) of the sinister happenings on the estate. But the
book is best not attempted when you’re feeling low, because there is little
hope left for any of its characters. Just be warned … A spooky, desolate read with
Gothic vibes for the not-so-faint at heart.