A review of The Ghost Hunters from www.geeksunleashed.me
Half-based on the historical haunting of Borley Rectory, The Ghost Hunters – Spring’s first novel – tells the story of fictional protagonist Sarah Grey and her work with the famous ‘ghost hunter’ and magician, Harry Price. On a quest to debunk abusers of Spiritualism and make sense of the idea of afterlife, Price was a prominent figure in early twentieth century occultism.
A chilling book, The Ghost Hunters had plenty of scares, perhaps mainly due to Borley Rectory’s significance as ‘the most haunted house in England’ but also manages to maintain a sort of fearful tension throughout the book. The infamous nun reported in the haunting appears throughout, but is never revealed fully, which was effective. Too often a horror story is ruined by almost unmasking the evil, and The Ghost Hunters really plays on the fear of the unknown.
It is the fear of the unknown that surges through this book, and I wouldn’t recommend reading it if you know a lot about Price and his work. I had only very basic knowledge of Borley Rectory and Harry Price, so many of the twists surprised me (especially when I found out he went to school about 100 yards away from where I live, but I suppose that’s not going to interest everyone else as much). Each twist was effective, without being too far-fetched; I did find certain theories about Price’s involvement with Borley’s haunting a little heavy-handed. Though certainly intriguing.
The characters, half real, half imagined are captivating. I liked Sarah Grey, our protagonist and Price’s secretary; she was intelligent, independent and likable in the way one might enjoy the company of a particularly belligerent cat. The only aspect of her character I found a little grating was when her fascination with Price grew more sexual in nature, which was a little predictable and frankly rather sinister.
Price himself was wonderfully unlikable, but fascinating enough to understand Sarah’s interest in him and his work. Though I feel perhaps I would have rather seen a Harry Price closer to the one of reality, with his real secretary as the protagonist: I must admit a slight disappointment upon discovering that Sarah was entirely fictional. But his ongoing mission against Spiritualism and war with Spiritualists like Arthur Conan Doyle (who makes a few appearances) threads Sarah’s life and his nicely together, and gave a wonderful insight into the world of 1920s spiritualism. Something which has always interested me.
The fact that The Ghost Hunters is rooted in real historical events works in its favour; it grounds the book and adds to its atmosphere of the uncanny, without turning into a clichéd scare fest. All in all a gorgeously written book, genuinely spooky at points and consistently unsettling, the characters were captivating and plot well thought out. I’d highly recommend to anyone looking for a more intellectual horror.