So So Gay Magazine, 30th October 2013
As the witching hour draws ever closer, we find ourselves itching to get hold of stories which chill the spine and fills your imagination with creatures which go bump in the night. With this in mind, we picked up The Ghost Hunters, a wonderful gem of a book which takes readers on a fantastic tour of Borley Rectory, long considered Britain’s most haunted house. What follows is an amazingly realised story of scepticism that is shattered by the unexplained goings-on at the house, and the apparitions that haunt it.
The story itself follows Sarah Grey, a young woman living in London in the 1920s who becomes the assistant of one of the country's most well known paranormal investigators, the charismatic Harry Price. Price, whose investigations into the macabre has debunked several mediums and spiritualists of the time, is well established as a sceptical thinker whose purely scientific methods leaves him unable to locate any real paranormal phenomenon. This makes the man lose his faith in the unknown and unexplained, and often considers almost all stories of ghosts and mediums to be, at best, nonsense or easily explained. However, this all changes when the pair take on the case of Borley Rectory, a house with a long and dark history of hauntings which forces all concerned to see the things that bump in the night in a whole new light.
As a story, Spring has a crafted a wonderfully realised narrative which blends his own interpretation of history alongside true historical fact. This unique approach goes beyond historical fiction as we know and understand it, allowing the reader to walk a fine line between history and supposition into an amazingly thought out narrative. This approach makes the story feel entertaining, yet also based in facts which can be easily checked out later, leaving readers to investigate the mysteries of Borley Rectory for themselves. This makes The Ghost Hunters more of a doorway into the unknown than just a simple ghost story; we found ourselves hooked surprisingly easily.
One of the areas where the book triumphs is its depiction of the characters and settings. Spring’s description of Harry Price and Sarah Grey’s characters is detailed and within minutes the reader has a clear image of the characters. Similarly, the details of their characters are very well fleshed out which gives a wonderful organic feel to their motivations and in turn makes the stories of the exploits all the more endearing and absorbing. This combined with the heavy details of 1920s London, and also the Rectory itself, can come across as slightly heavy at first, but as the story unfolds this details becomes deeply engrossing. In particular, Spring’s depiction of Borley left a somewhat chilling sensation on us, as it feels from the offset to be a house filled with dark creatures just beyond our sight. It made us itch to read further and see what happened next.
If we had to pick one area that we felt a little let down on it is the fear factor of the story itself. There are occasions where we felt genuinely tense by the events that occurred at the Rectory, and we were understandably interested to see how this would develop. But the sense of apprehension never really graduated beyond that, as so much of the story is rooted in the characters who did not often stay at the Rectory for long. While the drama which unfolds between the characters is equally enthralling, we were still left wondering when the fear was going to creep in and make our hearts beat a mile a minute.
The Ghost Hunters is a great book, and Spring is definitely a debut author that we want to keep an eye on for a long time to come. His treatments of the characters and settings are pitch perfect and filled with all the glamour and intrigue that you could possibly find in the 1920s, and his blend of fact and fiction makes his narrative all the more enticing. While there might be some who wish for a frightening tale, we were more than satisfied and pleased to say that The Ghost Hunters earned a place in our bookcase.
The Ghost Hunters is published by Quercus, why not TREAT yourself this Halloween? Order your copy here.