In John Searles’ spooky new page-turner, Help for the Haunted, it’s easy to wonder about who’s really the haunted one – all of the characters turn out to be haunted in some way – it’s the “help” in which the story really lays. Albert Lynch sits in jail awaiting trial for the murder of Sylvester and Rose Mason, charges lodged primarily on the word of the couple’s teenaged daughter Sylvie. Sylvie, the “good daughter”, lives a mostly-neglected existence with her flinty older sister and guardian, Rose, who keeps her at arm’s length, but for what reason?
When a new witness comes forward who could exonerate Lynch, Sylvie is forced to peel back the layers of what really happened that night they died, and consider fully all of the small actions that brought her and her parents to an empty church, beckoned by a phone call from Rose. Sylvester and Rose Mason made their living off of the hopes of people afflicted by things they didn’t understand – were these cases of possession? Or mental illness? Or sheer fakery? While Sylvie had only begun to realize the raging debate about how much of the work her parents did was “real”, it’s up to Sylvie now to decide for herself what is real in this thoughtful and dark character-driven story in which what is believed must be carefully weighed against what is known. This psychologically suspenseful mystery with a strong hint of the unknown might appeal to you if you like books by Tana French or Gillian Flynn.
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