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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-01-20 11:29
Review of The Ghost Hunter's by Neil Spring
The Ghost Hunters - Neil Spring

Wow this is my first review on BookLikes and I'm going to start with a book I mentioned in a previous blog post "The Ghost Hunter's."

Now if a book contains any element of truth I'm really interested to read it and see how fact and fiction blend.

"The Ghost Hunter's" is told from the perspective of Sarah Grey, a young women, who in 1926, becomes assistant to Harry Price one of Britain's best known psychic investigators.

Having lost her father in the war, it is  Sarah's mother who becomes obsessed with finding a medium who can let her speak to her late husband; and it is through this search Sarah encounters Price for the first time.

Price is determined to expose fake mediums as he doesn't believe authentic ones exists, and it is this work Sarah helps him with.

But everything changes when a national paper asks Price to investigator Borley Rectory; as the night Sarah and Price spend there changes both their lives for ever.

In this his debut novel Neil Spring weaves fact and fiction effortless to give a new take on both Harry Price and Borley Rectory.

Now if you are looking for a horror story, you will need to look elsewhere as this book is psychologically driven.

Sarah Grey's character is Neil's creation, but she is a very likable and well crafted. You can almost feel her pain at different stages throughout the book.

Harry Price had the reputation of being the best known psychic investigator, not only in Britain but beyond. These days a lot of his work, especially that on Borley has been  dispelled as fraudulent, and in this book Neil portrays him as a secretive man who is also cunning and deceitful.

No one knows for sure just what happened at Borley Rectory, but even today it is still something of an enigma.

Did Price fabricate a lot of it as purported in the book?

We shall never know, although even today there reports of strange happenings in Borley Church.

This a wonderful book and I can't recommend it highly enough.

 

 

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text 2018-01-19 20:00
Reading progress update: I've read 80 out of 304 pages.
Theodore Roosevelt's Ghost: The History and Memory of an American Icon - Michael Patrick Cullinane

So far Cullinane has been focusing on the memorialization of Roosevelt in the decade after his death. It's interesting stuff, but I think he missed an opportunity by not preceding it with the interaction between how TR was remembered after his death with the image Roosevelt constructed of himself during his long public career.

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review 2018-01-17 06:35
Creeping Fear
Lockwood & Co.: The Creeping Shadow - Jonathan Stroud

I adore this series. I always look forward to the newest book. And I have to get these on audiobook because the narration is always excellent. I was not disappointed. At the end of "The Hollow Boy", Lucy leaves Lockwood and Co for what seems like good reasons at the time. She becomes an independent contractor ghost hunter and she's good at her job. But she's not happy, even with her glass jar skull for company. She misses the camaraderie of Lockwood and Co.: George, even Holly, and of course, Lockwood. But she left to keep them safe because her newer abilities to communicate with ghosts might cause her to make a mistake and get one of her friends hurt.

Lockwood shows up at her new digs and asks for her help with a case, and she agrees to help them out. It's one of their tougher cases, and Lucy finds her life in jeopardy shortly after, and realizing that she's more safe sticking with Lockwood and Co. until they fi

gure out who's trying to kill her. That's when their biggest case comes their way, a whole haunted village. They end up in a small town with serious ghost problems a conspiracy that will shake the foundations of the ghost hunting community.

I love how Stroud steadily builds on the foundation of the last book and the previous ones. The story just expands beautifully and he doesn't leave any plot elements dangling. While he turns a few things on their heads, it's organic as the reader realizes that things weren't as the characters thought or believed. The characters are very well developed and layered. While the main characters are all teens, they have a maturity that is realistic considering the world they live in and the dangers they face every day. Let's face it. The children are the ones on the frontline, confronting and dealing with the ghost Problem.

These books are delightfully eerie and downright chilling at times. Also, there's plenty of human menace. I mean, grownups trying to kill kids. How sick is that? While the paranormal elements are integral to the story, the heart of it is the characters. Everything is told from Lucy's point of view (it's 1st person), but the characters don't suffer from being seen through the typically narrow 1st person vantage point. Instead, they are richly described, with dialogue and action that shows you everything you need to know about them. Lucy also grows as a character as she faces significant challenges and comes to realizations about what she is and how to deal with the troubles she and her friends face. And that they are stronger together.

As with the last book, this has a nice conclusion but it also leaves the door open for the next book. Things are about to get even more intense, and I'm here for it.

Another book I'd love to see made into movies. And I just checked and it's going to be optioned for a tv series in the UK. This pleases me. Sadly, the next book is the last book. But all good things come to an end.

Highly recommend!
 
 
 
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text 2018-01-15 12:15
Neil Spring's The Ghost Hunter's A new take on Borley Rectory
The Ghost Hunters - Neil Spring

In my last post I spoke about Borley being one of the places I would love to visit.

Unfortunately the Rectory doesn't exist any more, but the Church is still experiencing unexplained phenomena to this day.

Who knows perhaps one day I will finally get there?

Last night I finished reading Neil Spring's debut novel "The Ghost Hunter's" all about Borley and it's investigation by Harry Price.

Now Borley was called "the most haunted house in Britain" at the time, although no one knows for sure just what happened.

Harry Price was the "psychic detective," a man who set out to prove that mediums were frauds and the after life doesn't exist; and apparently ended up a believer.

Neil Spring cleverly weaves real events with fictional ones, which makes this book into something more than your traditional haunted house story.

I find the book to be an interesting new take on Price and Borley and recommend it to anyone interested in either.

What do I believe about Borley and the part Harry Price played?

First to Price.

The man was an enigma at the time, although since then a shadow has been cast over his investigation of the Rectory, and it has been dismissed as a hoax.

Did he pull off all the phenomena himself? The only person who knows the answer to that is Harry Price himself, and since he died in the 40's I think it's safe to say he took the secret to the grave.

And just what about Borley?

Well the reports of a nun being seen go back to 1900 I do believe, so they were circulating long before Price was called in by a national paper to investigate.

As to the identity of who the nun was we may never know.

At the end of his book Neil Spring reports that in 2004 I think it was, work was carried out close to where the Rectory had stood.

During this time the remains of a woman were found buried.

Is this just a weird coincidence?

Not to me it isn't, when you think of the messages that were reportedly written by an unseen hand on the walls of the  Rectory.

So yes, I do believe that something supernatural did happen at Borley over a period of time and has continued at the Church to the present day.

When it comes to Harry Price, I'm afraid the jury is out!

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review 2018-01-10 21:00
Mr. Campion of 17A Bottle Street, Piccadilly, London
The Tiger in the Smoke - Margery Allingham,David Thorpe
The Fashion in Shrouds - Margery Allingham,Francis Matthews
Flowers for the Judge - Margery Allingham
Sweet Danger - Margery Allingham
Mystery Mile - Margery Allingham
Dancers in Mourning (Albert Campion Mystery #8) - Margery Allingham
Police at the Funeral - Margery Allingham
Death of a Ghost - Margery Allingham
The Case of the Late Pig - Margery Allingham
Look to the Lady - Margery Allingham

I started the new year with a minor Allingham binge and, having now read a fair number of her Campion mysteries (12, i.e. 2/3 of the 18 novels that she herself completed), I think I can safely say that while I won't ever like this series as much as I do those of Christie, Sayers, and Marsh, when Allingham is good, she is really good and can easily measure up to the other Golden Age "Queens of Crime."

 

Campion starts out as a fairly thinly-drawn cipher in The Crime at Black Dudley, but that is due to the fact that Allingham wasn't initially intending to make him her main detective: he was her publisher's preference over the character that Allingham herself had had in mind as the lead.  So, in the following novels, she willy-nilly had to put some more flesh onto his hitherto meager bones, and pronto.  Unfortunately, she didn't do likewise for the plots (nor for her books' other characters), which in books 2 and 3 (Mystery Mile and Look to the Lady) remain variations on the same theme -- a treasure hunt with murder interlude, complete with an international crime syndicate led by a master criminal, various abduction schemes, and supporting characters so unrealistic and twodimensionally cardboard they'd go up in flames if you only held a lighter vaguely in their direction. 

 

That said, in book 2 (Mystery Mile) already Allingham did come up with one of the greatest sidekicks ever in the history of mystery writing -- Campion's "gentleman's gentleman" Maggersfontein Lugg, who (being an ex-burglar) is anything but gentlemanlike -- and even by the time she wrote this book, she had already made great strides towards finding her style, and she'd definitely also learned a thing or two about tightening up a meandering plot.

 

The first one of her books that I really enjoyed (or had, on an earlier occasion, even though I didn't revisit it for this particular exercise) is book 4, Police at the Funeral: There still is a bit too much of a "woman in distress" element for my liking at the very beginning of this book, but essentially it's a classic country house mystery with a clever plot and a cast of unusual characters that are definitely showing signs of being more rounded than their confrères of the earlier novels -- the whole thing could easily give Agatha Christie a run for her money (even though the solution won't surprise anyone who knows their Conan Doyle and Christie tolerably well).

 

With book 5, Sweet Danger, we're back, alas, to the "treasure hunt with murder interlude and crime syndicate led by a master criminal" plot phenomenon, this time even with one of the Golden Age's most overused tropes thrown in (a tiny fictitious principality in the Balkans as the origin of the unsavory doings on British soil), all of which by this point had me thorougly gritting my teeth.  What elevates this book (somewhat) above its earlier predecessors, however, are its characters; first and foremost, then-17-year-old Lady Amanda Fitton, who even at that age is completely Campion's equal and manages to bowl him over completely in no time at all.  (She'd return in several subsequent novels and eventually end up as his wife; not without first having taken up a careers as a mechanic engineer.)

 

Book 6, Death of a Ghost, is based on an ingenious idea, set in the arts world, featuring a range of fairly over the top (although not necessarily always likeable) characters and, though Campion tumbles to "whodunnit" fairly early on, the "howdunit" and "whydunit" are far less clear.  One of my favorite installments from the bunch that I've read so far (albeit speaking from memory -- I haven't revisited this one recently, either ... I probably should).

 

Book 7, Flowers for the Judge, begins like a classic Golden Age locked room mystery set in the world of publishing: halfway into the story it becomes clear we're on a sort of treasure hunt yet again (or rather, on the hunt for a manuscript that may or may not exist and provide a vital clue to the murder), but it's clear here that the manuscript is merely a tool and Allingham's chief interest is in the characters -- one in particular --, so I'm willing to forgive Allingham for (semi-)falling back on her favorite ploy here.  (Also, I really like the ending, which provides a twist that rather made me smile, and which for a Golden Age mystery is anything but P.C.)

 

Book 8, The Case of the Late Pig, is an oddity in that it's told from Campion's point of view -- what with its distinctly outlandish plotline and the exchanges between Campion and Lugg it reads like Allingham's take on Jeeves and Wooster (though it's less clear who is supposed to be who), with another locked room puzzle thrown in for good measure and, like in Death of a Ghost, some monkey business associated with a (not-so) dear departed.  I rather liked its twists when I first read it; I've only ever revisited it on screen since, though, where the different narrative point of view isn't as apparent as in print.  Probably I should reread it at some point to see whether the first person narrative voice bothers me more now that I've read more books of the series overall.

 

Book 9, Dancers in Mourning, is Allingham's visit to classic Ngaio Marsh territory -- the world of the London stage --, combined once more with a country house setting.  At this point Allingham is very assured in creating interesting characters and a plot that holds together (also, this book is firmly within established Golden Age traditions), all of which makes for a rather enjoyable read. -- Side note: This is also the last book in which Campion is shown as unlucky in love with one of the story's female characters; in this particular instance, a married woman, which makes for quite a bit more depth than his previous forays into the territory of romance, mostly with the sisters and daughters of his friends and / or clients.

 

Book 10, The Fashion in Shrouds, sees Campion reunited -- of sorts -- with Amanda Fitton, who is now working as an engineer: what starts as a (purported) ploy of Amanda's designed to disentagnle her employer from the married star actress he has fallen in love with ends up with Campion and Amanda taking the first steps towards a bona fide union.  Topically, this is Allingham's take on career women; besides Amanda and the aforementioned vampish actress, the third woman on whom the story focuses is is Campion's sister Valerie, co-owner and chief designer of a fashion house.  In approach and execution, this novel is nowhere near as accomplished as Dorothy L. Sayers's Harriet Vane novels (particularly Gaudy Night, which was published three years before The Fashion in Shrouds) -- and the only truly independent and self-assured female character is Amanda, as well as Campion and Valerie's "Tante Marthe", the co-owner of the fashion house -- but I suppose given its publication date, it's worth mentioning that Allingham is placing career women center stage in a (mostly) favorable light at all.

 

Book 11, Traitor's Purse, to me is a hot mess; a fallback of the worst kind into Allingham's early "treasure hunt with assorted villainy" plotlines, replete with incomprehensible decisions on Campion's part that not even a head injury can satisfactorily explain away (in fact, in light of that head injury they're even more inexplicable), cipher characters, and a thoroughly implausible plot.  Seems Allingham, like Christie, got caught up in the "5th column" / "enemy at home" noise echoing through Britain (like through most, if not all European countries) in WWII, when this book was published; and again like Christie, she just simply didn't know enough about the world of espionage to pull it off convincingly.

 

Books 12 and 13 (Coroner's Pidgin and More Work for the Undertaker) are, as yet, on my TBR -- I don't know when I'll get around to them, but after this recent little binge, I doubt it will be anytime soon.

 

Which finally brings us to Book 14, The Tiger in the Smoke; in terms of characterization and atmosphere undoubtedly one of Allingham's strongest -- at least of the first 14 Campion novels.  Yet again we find about halfway through the book that we are on a treasure hunt, but for once even the villains -- and we know who they are almost from the get-go -- are fully rounded characters with an inner life and both a past and a present (albeit not much of a future if it's down to Campion and the police).  Campion's Scotland Yard sidekick of the earlier books, Stanislaus Oates, has climbed the career ladder all the way to the top, so the day to day police work is now being done by a very sympathetically drawn and, again, fully rounded new character, D.C.I. Charles Luke (side note: like Amanda's path from teenager to career woman to (now) Campion's wife and equal opportunity "lieutenant", another instance showing that unlike Christie, Allingham allowed her characters to age in real time).  And towards the end of the book, just before the final resolution, we even get a finely-drawn downright Dostoevskyan exchange between a priest and the worst of the bad guys that a younger Allingham might have given her eye teeth to write, but would not have been able to pull off anywhere near as accomplished. What's not to like?!

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