Help for the Haunted by John Searles
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I so wanted this to be a four star book (or even a five) but I just couldn't round up.
"Help for the Haunted" is the title of a classified ad that Sylvie's father placed in a newspaper when he decided that he could, in fact, help those haunted by people and items - not necessarily performing exorcisms, but helping remove the haunted thing from the lives of the living. His wife was actually the more sensitive of the two, able to help people meditate to find a sense of peace that overcame their fears (her description of what she did). Together they were the Masons, somewhat famous for banishing haunted items like a hatchet or a large doll, or just helping troubled people. Sylvie and Rose, their daughters, on the other hand, are pretty normal kids; Rose starts to rebel in what seem to be normal, teenage girl ways but that has an outsized effect on their father.
Told partly in two-stage flashbacks (childhood and the previous winter) and present-day, we hear Sylvie puzzling out what happened one dark and stormy night (sorry - but sometimes the writing does sink to that level; not often, but occasionally) when her parents ended up dead, shot in a church. Trying to be the Good Daughter, Sylvie has identified the killer, but as his trial date grows closer she has doubts and really tries to learn the truth. Some of her search veers into the unbelievable, and I'm not talking about the haunted part. Let's just say a couple of major clues come about in ways that truly strain credulity (the trip to Rehobeth, for example). Hence the loss of stars. nd the ending? Not satisfying. I wanted more... something. It felt like the author ran out of ideas and just allowed the story to glide to a finish, when it's possible that some of the untied ends could have led to a little bit more.
ARC provided by publisher.