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Publisher's Summary

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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Overall

  • 3.6 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

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  • Bleu
  • Chicago, IL, United States
  • 10-31-13

Perfect for Halloween

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.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Fuzzy on the Haunted Part

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.

25 of 30 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
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Really?

What disappointed you about Help for the Haunted?

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....

Has Help for the Haunted turned you off from other books in this genre?

No

What three words best describe Emma Galvin’s voice?

Nasaly, Boring, Flat

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Not really

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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thoroughly absorbing

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic murder mystery, but not a ghost story.

Could you see Help for the Haunted being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

It'd make a great movie.

Any additional comments?

Very well written, but it does jump around the story's timeline a lot, which can be confusing. I don't usually listen to books in this genre, but this really hooked me.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Not what I expected.

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

No. I thought it was confusing at times as the story seemed to blend the past and the present together continuously. It became difficult to keep track of where you were in the story.

What was most disappointing about John Searles’s story?

There wasn't a good flow to it. I felt like the story bounced around too much. It would have been better if he had given a synopsis of the background then moved ahead with the details instead of going back and forth.

What three words best describe Emma Galvin’s performance?

Her consistency was good, but I felt she paused in areas of a sentence that should not have been paused. It seemed like she added commas when there weren't any needed. Also, her grammar could have been better.

Was Help for the Haunted worth the listening time?

Not reallly. I felt like I wanted to "get through" it because the story was long and drawn out. I feel that he put a lot of incidentals in the story just to make it long, when it would have been better without them. Too many details can bog a story down.

Any additional comments?

Not a terrible book, but I've listened to much better books. Sorry.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Should be called "Flashbacks"

This is a very SSSLLLOOOWWW-paced, overly long story that starts at the end and then tells you how the characters got there, through dozens of flashbacks, intertwined with little snippets of the present.

Halfway through I was ready to call it quits, and I struggled to finish, but I did, not on the strength of the story, but on the strength of the performance.

In fact, it was because of the narrator, Emma Galvin, that I originally bought this book. I have heard some of her other performances (and yes, they are performances, that go way beyond mere readings), and thought I'd try this one, so I credit her with being able to finish this mostly boring, dull, painfully slow story comprised of flashbacks and flashbacks of flashbacks all loosely and very confusingly strung together with snippets of the present.

In short, save your money, and 14 hours of your life, and buy something else. You'll probably be better off for it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Howard
  • Cumberland, MD, United States
  • 01-20-14

Truths are not as they appear.

Truths are not as they appear - even to those closest to us.

John Searles crafted an entertaining novel - presented as a paranormal mystery with pro-religious overtones. But things are not always as they first appear. Searles uses Help for the Haunted to expose the fact that we not only keep secrets from those we love and those we don't, but we often keep them from ourselves. At the very end, you have to decide for yourself what is fact and what is not.

Sylvie, the smart, young teenage daughter of Sylvester and Rose, is dragged from bed in the middle of a snowy night by her parents to meet their older daughter, also named Rose. Sylvie's parents are murdered at the church and Sylvie is assaulted. Sylvie then tells us the stories of her family, their work, and travels. These stories are woven in between Sylvie's stories as a ward of her older sister and their treatment from those in the community.

Sylvie learns the prime murder suspect has a rock solid alibi for the time the murders were committed. Sylvie searches for the truth about the deaths of her parents and learns about their lives along the way. She also learns secrets about them, her sister and plenty of others before finding her parent's murderer. The story moves along quite steadily and had me finding reasons to keep listening past the end of several chapters. While not all the questions are answered, there is enough of a conclusion to make reading Help for the Haunted satisfying.

Some reviewers here have complained about the narrator. I completely disagree with their unfavorable comments about Emma Galvin, the narrator of Help for the Haunted. I enjoy listening to her performance of this book and others. She is very appropriate for narrating a story from the young female perspective, especially someone with a world as upset as Sylvie's.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic!

I heard John Searles on XM radio talking about his book and it sounded like something I would like. I joined Audible and saw it on one of the recommendation lists. So great and even better than I expected. I truly had no idea where it was going to go. Hopefully he has written something else for me to download!
Emma Galvin is the perfect voice of Sylvie!

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Twists and suspense plus believable

Really liked the suspense and twists.
You may think you have it figured out. Just wait and see. Sylvie is a brave gal!