Now this is a novel that’s really got to me.
If you are a fan of 1970s ghost stories you will devour it. I read one chapter each evening, trying to make it last, to savour each delicious morsel. And it’s haunted me ever since. The works of M.R. James, the true life 1972 Philip Experiment, the Stone Tape theory – all the paranormal joy of the decade is encapsulated in this book.
Twins Tim and Abi are obsessed with the macabre, and decide upon conducting a bizarre experiment – to invent a ghost, and try to convince one other person that it’s real. The person they select for this trickery is isolated and pathetic schoolmate Janice. Their plan works like a dream – but then Janice turns the tables, in quite a shocking and disturbing way.
Years later, Tim finds himself embroiled in another experiment – to contact a ghost in a haunted house, alongside paranormal researchers and students. Again, nothing is quite as it seems, and the plot unfolds slowly, taking its time to get under your skin. This story is all about feeling. It builds and builds with a sublime sense of dread, sticky unease. And finally explodes, with a last line…. oh, the most perfect last line, one that will gnaw away at your consciousness for evermore.
Maclean perfectly channels the mastery of fear just like his inspiration M.R. James. The characters are wonderfully deep and messed up. The plot meanders making it difficult to predict (what a joy for a seasoned horror fan), and ultimately delivers a fantastic twist. The writing style draws you in and holds you close. It’s definitely one I will re-read, and likely find new detail, new twists.