Wednesday 2 October 2019

BLOG TOUR: A House of Ghosts - W.C. Ryan

Winter 1917. As the First World War enters its most brutal phase, back home in England, everyone is seeking answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives.

At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon coast, Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to contact his two sons who were lost in the conflict. But as his guests begin to arrive, it gradually becomes clear that each has something they would rather keep hidden. Then, when a storm descends on the island, the guests will find themselves trapped. Soon one of their number will die.

For Blackwater Abbey is haunted in more ways than one . . .

A gripping and atmospheric mystery packed with twists and turns,

A House of Ghosts is the perfect chilling read.

What did I think?

I saw William Ryan at the Spirits in the Material World panel at Newcastle Noir 2019 and was riveted by his conversation and his amazing Irish accent.   As I'm partial to a bit of supernatural spookiness I promptly added him to my 'must read' list, so when I saw that A House of Ghosts was being published, I was chomping at the bit to read it.  I read it over the course of 24 hours and could quite easily have read it in one sitting if I didn't have to eat or sleep.

Firstly, I have to mention the eye-catching and mesmerising cover of A House of Ghosts.  The screen doesn't do it justice as the gold foiling on the paperback catches the light and kept tempting me to touch it, which I couldn't help myself doing.  Book strokers of the world unite!  When I could finally tear my eyes away from the cover, I was delighted to find a map in the front of the book.  I'm a bit of map geek so I love things like this; it really helps to set the scene, although it's not necessary to keep referring to it throughout the book.

With the first world war raging across Europe, many young men were destined never to return home.  Officially 'missing in action', families would never know when or how many of their loved ones died.  Lord Highmount sent two sons off to war and neither returned so he arranges a seance in the hope that one or both of his sons will make contact.  With a variety of psychics and mediums called to attend, you have to wonder if any of them are genuine or are they up to their famous tricks of manipulating the grief-stricken?  Two guests are on a secret mission to find out.

This haunting gothic tale has all the hallmarks of a marvellous whodunnit by Agatha Christie with the dark brooding setting of a Daphne du Maurier novel.  I loved the dynamic between the two main characters of Kate and Donovan and I was very intrigued by what I liked to refer to as Kate's magic mirror.  At the heart of the story is the harrowing effect of war, both on those who experienced it at the front line and those left behind at home.  I can't even begin to imagine what it must have been like for so many young men to never return home, often wiping out the youths from whole families and villages.  I recall my Grandad saying that he was only one of two young men who returned to their village in Wales at the end of World War II, then he promptly upped sticks and moved to the North East leaving only one young man in the village - I bet he was popular with the ladies!

I really enjoyed A House of Ghosts, it has so many threads running through it to keep me intrigued and they all tie up nicely at the end.  It has all the makings of a classic novel and one that will definitely go on the 'to read again' list; I'm already planning to chill my bones with another visit to Blackwater Abbey on a dark winter's night in the not too distant future.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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About the author:
W. C. Ryan is a pseudonym for William Ryan, author of The Constant Soldier and the Korolev series of historical crime novels. His books have been shortlisted for numerous awards including the Theakston Crime Novel of the Year Award, the CWA Historical Dagger and the Ireland AM Irish Crime Novel of the Year Award and have been translated into over a dozen languages. William is married and lives in west London.

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