The Siren and the Specter
Publication Date: September 6th 2018
Flame Tree Press
I received this book courtesy of NetGalley and Flame Tree Press in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.
This book has had a lot of love over social media and various book review sites; it has popped up on my news feed time and again with its 4 and 5 star reviews and I’ve seen numerous posts about how scary and terrifying it was, and I admit I was very excited to receive it in exchange for a review. I was a little late to the party with this, but thankfully it was still available to request via NetGalley.
To me, this was a story about a love lost, and the search for forgiveness, not from other people, but the journey to forgiving yourself. This was a story about moving on, finding peace, and closing the door on a dark chapter of your life.
Synopsis: “When David Caine, a celebrated skeptic of the supernatural, is invited by an old friend to spend a month in “the most haunted house in Virginia,” he believes the case will be like any other. But the Alexander House is different. Built by a 1700s land baron to contain the madness and depravity of his eldest son, the house is plagued by shadows of the past and the lingering taint of bloodshed. David is haunted, as well. For twenty-two years ago, he turned away the woman he loved, and she took her life in sorrow. And David suspects she’s followed him to the Alexander House.”
I enjoyed it, I really did, although I personally didn’t find it scary. From reviews I have read and various posts I have seen in relation to it, I had expected to be shaken to my very core by this one. To me it was a great story no doubt, with an eclectic mix of characters, ranging from the sweet, the decent, to the downright seedy. I found the majority of characters interesting; I became very fond of the lead protagonist, David Caine, as well as growing to love Jessica as the story developed.
Two characters I had problems with were Mr Templeton, the caretaker of Alexander House, and his daughter Alicia. To me, they felt to be ‘filler’; they seemed to serve only a gratuitous purpose. The discovery of Alicia’s severed head seemed to be inserted only for shock value and then her father who responds in anguish was a bit of a ‘blink and you miss him’ character, brought in to pad the scene out. One minute he was trying to kill David and Ralph, the next he was helping them escape the house. This was the one part of the book that felt a little messy to me, a tad pointless. Alicia’s character hadn’t been developed enough for me really to be bothered by her grim demise, it felt more like she was just introduced so she could be killed.
I wish more had been done with Ralph’s character. After the revelation of what he had done, or more accurately, what he had allowed to be done, I really wished that his story had been allowed to develop a little more. I would have loved to see a bit more before his confession, and a lot more after. I think he was a decent guy overall, he had just made a bad decision to get through life – don’t we all sometimes? We all have regrets, dark secrets that we want to stay hidden, sins we wish we could undo. A part of me wished that he hadn’t have been killed the way he was, but again, it developed the story somewhat with regards to David and the undoing of his perpetual scepticism,so I can see why it was played out in such a way.
I really enjoyed the seedy Shelby family, Honey... oh dear lord, what a nightmare of a woman. Her bullish husband and her two innocent children, it was heartbreaking at times. Especially Ivy - the poor girl endured a lot. I really liked David’s interaction with them, the inner monologue of deciding what to do, should he go to the police or not. It really fitted well with the sad times we live in, with this kind of family unit being everywhere. The sad truth nowadays is you find yourself torn, you might want to help, take a child in and feed them, make them feel safe for a little bit, but you can’t. We now live in a world where if you so much as smile at a child you can be accused of all kinds. I have even read ridiculous news stories where a father was arrested for taking a picture of his own child in a park. We have created this madness, this world where we are all too scared of accusation and repercussion, to help people now. I appreciated that it was alluded to within the book, intentionally or otherwise.
The Siren aspect of the story is another part that I feel wasn’t touched enough on. We only receive a brief synopsis of this during the book, and it felt a little like a Marvel post credit scene at the end.
Overall I very much enjoyed The Siren and the Specter. I have several issues with it, but with that, it’s a great story. It is about love and loss, as well as the sad truths of some families and the twisted way friendships can end up. It didn’t feel like a great ghost story, and I was definitely more interested and involved with the characters and the developing plot, rather than with the haunting, which just felt more like a secondary side story.
It’s a fantastic read despite what I found to be flaws. It’s interesting and thought provoking and does have a few horrifying moments near the end.
3/5 – not terribly scary but a great story nonetheless.
Lesley-Ann (Housewife of Horror)