Books & Reviews

‘The General Theory of Haunting,’ by Richard Easter: Book Review

I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Star rating: ★★★✰✰

Plot:

the-general-theory-of-haunting-book-coverIn 1809, Lord Francis Marryman has lost his wife. He desperately misses her and, in honour of her, decides to build a Hall in the Devon countryside.

Two centuries later, K&K Publishing Company needs a last-minute venue for their New Year’s Eve party. Marryman Hall is the only place available, and when the day of the party arrives, a snowstorm means only a handful of people can attend, soon finding themselves snowed in with no phone or internet.

As the guests settle into the Hall, looked after by the butler, Mr Boulder, they start to hear noises and voices that they can’t explain. The more they delve into the history of the Hall looking for answers, the more their own secrets are brought to light, and the more they realise that Lord Marryman wasn’t simply building a house to remember his wife, but was attempting something much more sinister.

Not as Normal as it Seems

The General Theory of Haunting starts off as a pretty generic ghost story: A group of people are stuck in a big manor type house with no contact with the outside world. Their only companion is a butler who’s a little bit off, but no one’s sure why. They start to hear strange noises and see odd things happening. Fairly standard stuff for a ghost story set up.

But this is a ghost story with a bit of a twist. It gets a bit science-y, which is unusual in a story about the occult. We find out that Lord Marryman was a bit ahead of his time when it comes to quantum physics and it takes a turn that not a lot of ghost stories have done before (I don’t think).

I liked this unusual direction because otherwise, I think this could have been a really basic story. And Easter deals with the scientific stuff well. It’s not written in a way that alienates anyone. So if you’re familiar with quantum physics it’s not dumbed down too much that it will bore you, but if you’re not, it’s still easy enough to follow.

Claustrophobic Spirit

Even with the scientific elements, Easter manages to keep it a great ghost story, and a lot of that has to do with the claustrophobic atmosphere he creates. You feel like you’re snowed in the house with the guests with the walls creeping in on you.

The characters themselves are what drive this story. Their fractured relationships are heightened by their situation. The fact that they’re stuck in this house with only each other means they have no choice but to face their problems, some with disastrous consequences. Each person is brought to breaking point with no way to escape. It makes a great read!

Slow Burner

The story does take a while to actually get going, which annoyed me a little bit as I wasn’t sure if there was much point in continuing. And the reader figures out what’s going on just before the characters do, so I did find myself willing them to hurry up and get it because I was getting a bit bored.

But it is worth sticking with as it’s an interesting plot and satisfying ending. If you find yourself waning a little while reading it, just keep going a little longer. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

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