It begins with a call one snowy February night. Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation: helping "haunted souls" find peace. And yet something in Sylvie senses that this call is different from the others, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church's red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep, only to wake to the sound of gunfire.
As the story weaves back and forth through the years leading up to that night and the months following, the ever-inquisitive Sylvie searches for answers and uncovers secrets that have haunted her family for years.
Capturing the vivid eeriness of Stephen King's works and the quirky tenderness of John Irving's novels, Help for the Haunted is told in the captivating voice of a young heroine who is determined to discover the truth about what happened on that winter night.
©2013 John Searles (P)2013 HarperCollinsPublishers
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This is a YA read, and that may be a factor in how much you like or dislike this book. I was unaware of that when I purchased this book, after the suggestion from a reader friend. I haven't read Searles before but have seen him on the Today show and know he has a big following. Generally, I don't read YA books and the fact that I continued to the end after I realized the intended audience speaks to Searles' writing talent. I wouldn't steer readers away from this choice, but I would advise them to lower their expectations.
The story has a spooky and eerie quality from the beginning. The parents were wonderfully dysfunctional; a dubious pair of spiritualist whose work is only lightly talked about with the 2 daughters, both urged to keep the family business private. Sylvie's youth has her still obedient and dependent on her parents, while her older sister Rosie is rebellious and questioning of the shady events occurring at all hours in their home. The house itself is surrounded with *no trespassing* warnings, contains a mysterious basement room, and both the artifacts from the parents *jobs* exorcising demons from the haunted, and the religious symbols of the mother's juxtaposed devotion to Christianity. The story goes back and forth between time from the night Sylvie's parents were brutally murdered to the events that led up to the crime. No ghosts, no demons, just a very strange family with a very strange business.
The story began to unravel as it spread, characters popped into the plot without clearing up any of the mystery, and even Sylvie -- whom the reader is counting on to keep us heading toward the light -- starts to become unreliable (beyond the *unreliable narrator* tactic). It is never clear if Searles intended Sylvie's memory of the events to be tinged with the recollections of a young teen, or whether Sylvie was a manipulative chip off the ol' parental block. What began as a promising haunted tale, with rag dolls fished out of wells and rocking chairs facing the corner, becomes a cloudy plot that leaves you more confused than spooked. I only hung in till the ending because I was so convinced from a great start that Searles would pull-up and give us an unexpected WOW ending -- but he didn't, and this one bombed for me.
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This was a great Halloween read/listen. The blend of Gothic ghost story, contemporary coming-of-age story, and twisty-turn mystery made for a unique mix. I also thought the narration by Emma Galvin was spot on.
I have always loved to read. Discovering audible has been great for a multitasker! Sorry for any misspells on reviews!
An excellent mystery that all though very slow moving draws you in and keeps going till the end. If I were to compare it to another book it would be Lovely Bones although the story is very different , the feel of it is very similar. It is the story of a 14 year old girl whos demon/ghost hunting parents are murdered. Follow as she struggles to come to terms with and piece together what happened on the night of their murder and deals with what she learns about her family in the process. Although not high action suspense I did not want to stop listening until I finished the book. I did not figure out the ending until it was revealed. The narrator did perfect portraying a 14 year old girl.
What started out as an intriguing mystery soon became a diseased plot. The author led you down what seemed to be connected paths yet rapidly dismantled them using sophomoric ploys and common writing tricks. Characters were introduced to....well, waste time I suppose because many had no relevance to the story. I'm not sure what kept me listening; I suppose there was hope at every corner that this would wrap up nicely into good mystery. But nope, it never happened. Very disappointing. I'll stick to Steinbeck for now....
Nasaly, Boring, Flat
Unpredictable, interesting, good
I wish the pacing was better. There were too many awkward pauses. Her voice is great, I had no issue with that (though it was strange listening to it right after the Divergent series) but the narrator would read a sentence like she was ending it, then come to the next word or phrase and keep going. It needed rehearsing or more read-throughs.
I don't usually like books in which a precocious pre-teen/teen is the main character, but in this book it works, especially with the excellent reading by Emma Galvin. I grew more squeamish about the parents and their weird life but kept reading because the mystery was compelling. Did not like the ending...culprit came completely out of left field which I think is cheating for a mystery writer. Also, Mr. Searles has a wonderful writing style but seems to have problems with past participles of some verbs and it's kind of jarring..."she sunk", "we snuck" (really?!), "he spit".
Like Audio books, love to be read to. Am retired, spend a lot a time at pool so listen to music, & audio books when have them, now I will have ones I like.
Narrator, The Book. Was Great
That she got the truth, & could stop the lies. The whole book was a Grabber.
No Fav. It was a great book. In all ways
It all did, the Narrator made it all so awesome to listen to. The writer did great as well.
If like horror, may not be as that much but will keep you on the edge, so well worth listening or reading. I enjoyed it a lot.
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