Book Review: The Haunting of Henderson Close by Catherine Cavendish

I acquired this book for free in exchange for a review via NetGalley and Flame Tree Press, an imprint of Flame Tree Publishing.

The Haunting of Henderson Close is a ghost story, with elements of supernatural and historical fiction, by Catherine Cavendish about the escape of an evil, demonic presence in the heart of Edinburgh.

I was intrigued by the classification of The Haunting of Henderson Close as a horror, mystery and thriller novel, as I love to read books in these genres.

I liked the hints at ghostly activity presented at the start of the book. Gradually, these ghostly hints seem to point towards a more malevolent, demonic activity, suggesting the threat is more serious than a simple haunted museum. At times though, it felt as if Cavendish was trying to write a historical murder mystery rather than a supernatural ghost story, as a lot of the story focuses on Hannah, the protagonist, investigating a Victorian murder case, rather than directly investigating demons, ghosts, and legends of hauntings.

Cavendish’s use of flashbacks provide interesting visions of the past, which brings to life the history behind the museum in which Hannah now works. It’s interesting to know that the streets the protagonist gives historical tours on are the same streets the ghosts once walked on. However, at points, these flashbacks to the past seemed too sudden and jarred with the present-day narrative, so perhaps narrative cohesion and clarity could be improved in the future.

The use of setting was one of the main strengths of the book, as the descriptions of 19th century Edinburgh were detailed and made it easy to imagine just what Victorian Scotland used to look like.

The ending of the book was darker, more serious, and more sad than I had originally anticipated. This is not a criticism however, as I’m not of the opinion that all books must have a happy ending.

Overall, The Haunting of Henderson Close is a reasonable ghost story with an interesting historical concept behind it.

The Haunting of Henderson Close is released today! It is available to buy as a paperback, hardback, or e-book directly from Flame Tree Publishing.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

– Judith

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Book Review: The Escape

The Escape is a psychological thriller by C.L. Taylor.

The Escape begins with a stranger confronting Jo Blackmore, making threats against her husband and daughter.  Jo is terrified and thinks she is being stalked, yet nobody believes her family is danger. Taking matters into her own hands, Jo takes her two year old child and runs.

 My mum recommended The Escape to me, saying it was tense and gripping.

I agree; the novel begins immediately with a gripping hook, and I liked the stalker storyline. Taylor’s writing style also brilliantly captured Jo’s fearful and intense paranoia of everything and everyone around her.

However, I was frustrated by how unwilling Jo and, seemingly, everyone around her were to call the police. I know Jo was deeply frightened and therefore hesitant to call – that’s understandable. I don’t understand why every other character also seemed to put off calling the police for the most trivial reasons – meaning the stalking could conveniently continue to advance the plot.

I liked the second half of The Escape more, once Jo is on the run. Pieces of the puzzle began to make sense, and it felt like there was more going on. It was also interesting to see the lengths Jo would go to protect the identity of herself and her daughter.

Jo is definitely the most interesting character in the book. She’s clearly a dedicated mother, yet she struggles to move on from upsetting events in her past, which leaves her vulnerable and fearful for her new family, making the perfect target.

Personally though, I wish the antagonistic characters in The Escape were better developed. The book includes infrequent first-person narration from the mysterious stalker, interrupting the main narrative.

Yet, I don’t think these parts gelled as nicely with the rest of the book because they read like overly angst-filled diary entries, rather than anything scary.  I think these sections could have worked better if they were written as intimating letters, perhaps, and sent to Jo’s house instead. This would increase the tension both for Jo and readers, surely.

In short, I wanted the antagonists to be more villainous, which is an odd criticism to make. I just didn’t think they were threatening enough, and could be seen as some fairly disgruntled people simply pretending to be ‘baddies’.

I still liked The Escape, but it didn’t quite tick all the boxes for me.

– Judith

Book Review: Black Eyed Susans

A small while ago, I was meant to attend a Waterstones event, where Julia Heaberlin would be speaking about her new book, Paper Ghosts, but it was unfortunately cancelled. However, I was given a free copy of one of her other books, Black Eyed Susans.

Black Eyed Susans is a harrowing story.

Aged 16, Tessie Cartwright was found buried in a grave, marked by a patch of black-eyed susans. She was surrounded by bones – the bodies of previous victims. A man was captured and convicted, and sits awaiting his punishment on Death Row. She remembers nothing about what happened to her. 18 years later, Tessa suspects the real killer is still out there, and wonders if the right man was caught.

Firstly, I know they say don’t judge a book by its cover, but I really like these covers; a beautiful floral pattern is a nice change from more conventional thriller and crime cover designs.

My Photo [Black Eyed Susans 1]My Photo [Black Eyed Susans 2]Black Eyed Susans switches frequently between two main perspectives: the teenage Tessie, in therapy recovering from her ordeal, and the adult Tessa, haunted by her past.

I thought Tessie’s childhood perspective was the most fascinating. She discusses with her doctor what she actually remembers and what she thinks she remembers. The narration clearly conveyed Tessie’s inner-thoughts and attitudes; I felt I really understood her character. Because of this, the therapy scenes were my favourite sections of the book.

I also liked the interview segments which were taken from the trial, as Tessie is asked by lawyers to recount what happened. These sections were deviations from the traditional form of prose, but I enjoyed them as they were only small scenes and helped progress the narrative.

However, whilst I mostly enjoyed Heaberlin’s writing, she also uses lot of short sentences.

This creates a blunt tone. Initially I liked this style. It conveyed Tessa’s adult cynicism and sarcasm. Effectively. It could also create tension. Yet it felt overused. By the end of the novel.

Black Eyed Susans is incredibly sinister and dark. I liked all the twists; I tried to guess throughout what had happened, who was responsible, and why it happened. Unsurprisingly, I guessed incorrectly each time.

I strongly recommend this book, and I’d love to read more from Julia Heaberlin.

– Judith