FOREST OF GHOSTS is Book Four in J.H. Moncrieff's "GhostWriters" series. While this series does have the two main characters in common, they are all able to be read independently of each other. The location, problems, and methods, are diverse, so that prior knowledge of the earlier books in the series is not necessary. That being said, if you like books involving the supernatural and paranormal investigators, you will likely want to read the other cases.
"On my first night in Romania, I awoke to the sound of peacocks screaming."
Jackson is taking a "break" from his girlfriend, Kate--a gifted medium. When he hears about a writer's retreat in Transylvania, he decides it's time to put his blogging on hold and get some tips to hopefully develop his skills enough to write a book of his own.
". . . For all the damage Bram Stoker's famous book did to Transylvania's reputation, rural Romania is the furthest thing from eerie . . . "
This is one of my favorite aspects to Moncrieff's writing. When you read about a remote location, the words literally bring you there. Personally, I haven't done much traveling yet, but when I read of the locales visited in this series, I feel as though I'm seeing the sights through my own eyes. The descriptions, mainly through the characters' observations, are not "overly wordy" by any means. It's the bare, simplistic way that they take notice of their surroundings that make it feel so much more authentic to me. She doesn't need to try too hard to push these visuals at the reader. The natural, matter-of-fact way of how things filter into the characters' consciousness is the perfect method to convey this.
". . . Subtlety had never been one of my gifts . . . "
Another thing that impressed me in this novel was the use of dialog and consistency in the bantering between the characters. No matter which person we are reading about, the things they say and do are true to the personalities we are first presented with. It never fails to irritate me when a character suddenly changes in nature from what we are originally shown, to a trait they didn't previously possess.
". . . it made me want to lunge across the table and squeeze his throat until his ugly head popped off. Or something like that. I'm not a barbarian . . . "
This is a great example of Jackson's sarcastic wit in action. I've always loved sarcasm and dry humor in characters, but if it's not consistent, the effect doesn't work. Jackson's has remained intact through all of the novels he's appeared in.
"Ordinarily I'd remind you that people thought Ted Bundy was a nice guy too . . . "
As things begin to happen to some members of the writers' workshop, a figurative darkness begins to set over everyone--especially Jackson, who is more attuned to such things through his life with Kate. He knows first hand that the spirit world and human realm cross much more often than the others realize.
". . . Hoia Baciu? . . . The most haunted forest in the world . . ."
". . . It's a land-locked version of the Bermuda Triangle, but they let tourists go in there?"
The readers are brought to these exquisite locations where the action and supernatural happenings begin almost immediately--whether the characters are all aware of it or not. We glean information about these different parts of the world, as we are enjoying the fictional one presented to us.
Overall, I have to say that this is one of my favorite stories in the GhostWriters series. The lure and mystery of Romania, combined with a fictional tale of paranormal and other "inexplicable" happenings, is one that I found impossible to resist. I finished this novel in two sittings, often carrying it with me while moving about. Moncrieff has a knack for creating realistic personalities that feel authentic to the readers. The characters have their own styles, mannerisms, and faults, making them sound as complete as possible.
". . . If we only did the things we were certain would be successful, it would be a pretty dull world."
J.H. Moncrieff is a great voice in the writing world, and an author that remains on my "must read" list.