Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Help For The Haunted by John Searles ~ 2013

Ghosts don't scare me. But no ghosts - that terrifies me.


Published September 17th 2013 by William Morrow
Hardcover, 368 pages
Author: John Searles
ISBN10: 0060779632 (ISBN13: 9780060779634)
Edition language: English
Cover Design: Mumtaz Mustafa (Designer) Jennifer Short (Photographer)/Trevillion Images

4 Stars
John Searles

"Whenever the phone rang late at night, I lay in my narrow bed and listened."
So begins John Searles novel Help For The Haunted.  It is beautifully narrated by 14 year old Sylvie who is the younger daughter of Sylvester and Rose Mason.  A couple who seek to help "haunted souls" find peace in this world.  After receiving a phone call one winter's night from Rose, their estranged eldest daughter, they leave the house and are later murdered in an old church in Dundalk, a town just outside of Baltimore, Maryland in an act of gun fire. Sylvie remained in the car while the parents went to have a talk inside the church.

This is the middle of the story. As the story continues, John Searles alternates chapters to bring you the back story of this dysfunctional family to an ending in which Sylvie needs to find closure on her parents murder.

The story is a mystery on who killed the parents? Albert Lynch is charged with the murder since he was the person Sylvie had seen at the church. Or was he the one? Albert had found the Mason's on one of their lectures they had became nationally known for in Ocala, FLA seeking help for his troubled daughter Abigail. Which later in the novel, had met Mrs. Mason and Sylvie at the end of their road and asked for the Mason's to look after her "...for a few days." Later he turned against them. Although he claims he did not kill the Mason's he sits in jail awaiting trial.

After the death of the parents the girls are sought by their uncle Howie from Tampa, FLA as their guardian but the courts won't allow a 2-bit drunk the right. Rose and Sylvie live together at their home and were looked upon from Cora Daley, a case worker whom needs her own help. The story moves along with Rose having her fathers rebellious attitude (although Sylvester did have a good heart, he was adamant in his beliefs) and Sylvie having her mothers calm more relaxed attitude they do have their sibling bickering here and there, but, they remain close.

The story had its lighter spots too - Dot, the unsuspecting nanny (that was hilarious I thought [Thanks Rose]), Dereck (a.k.a. Seven) with his Scooby Doo antics, Arnold Boshoff who needs a cook book, and the mysterious lady who leaves delicious looking/smelling food covered in tin foil on their front porch - which Rose throws away. "Don't know if it's poison, Sylvie." Especially after being bullied from kids at school (Brian Waldrop who keeps calling Sylvie, Wednesday Addams), their mailbox repeatedly being knocked down, the rag dolls strewn over the yard, and the general stares from people. All because their parents practice demonology to get Help For The Haunted.

The story had a few places where I appreciated the anticipation I felt. The well had me thinking, "What's going on there?", the yellow light from the basement, the sounds heard from Sylvie with her good ear pressed against the living room floor. Yes, the story had my imagination going. Love a mystery.

I had thought the Mason's might have brought on their own demise: being steadfast in their beliefs and eventually being asked to leave the church they attended, fueling a reporter with aggravation who wanted to write a book "Help For The Haunted: The Unusual Work Of Sylvester and Rose Mason" by Samuel Heekin. Sylvester had a stern outlook on how and what to write and maybe, just maybe, the reporter had fell in love with Mrs. Mason after showing her the birds. That's a few examples I can think of at the moment.

One thing for sure, Sylvie, throughout the book had shown moxie. Above everyone else, even Detective Rummel, she wanted to find what actually happened so her parents could rest in peace.
The novel is packed with more than a dozen characters, each colored with their own personality, that are very believable. In fact, the whole story is quite believable in present time. I enjoyed the mystery and worth the time for thriller lover's. ~ Caution: Is your basement light on?



Help For The Haunted


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