*I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley, with thanks to the author and publishers. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: 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 . . .
Loved this book!
Initially I felt a bit anxious as it felt VERY similar to the beginning of certain Agatha Christie novels, particularly And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express. In fact the similarities to ATTWN were so marked at first in plot, character and tone that I genuinely feared I would already know the ending!
Luckily I was wrong and by the second and third chapters the author had really got into their own flow. The style and setup may have been an homage to the late great Christie (whose work I thoroughly enjoy), but the plot turned out to be unique and cleverly constructed.
I particularly enjoyed the way in which the ghostly element of the plot was integrated and useful at points, but did not take over and ended up as more of a world-building feature than anything. There is lots of scope for more novels set in this world which resembles our own in all ways, except the general acceptance of spirits and people who can see/communicate with them.
Many of the characters tended towards the stereotypical, again very similar to the classic Christie set up: the doctor, the medium, the clerk, the heiress and so on. The two main ‘investigatory’ characters of Kate and Donovan became more rounded as the story progressed however, and I thoroughly admired their stiff upper-lip attitude in the face of danger and drama alike!
Definitely a great read for Christie fans who like a bit of supernatural on the side. I have my fingers crossed that Ryan is working on his next ‘Kate and Donovan’ mystery right now, as I’m very keen to find out more about her mysterious episodes and his secretive past…
‘So perhaps the question is: who in the house doesn’t have a reason for murdering Lord Highmount?’
‘Well,’ she said smiling, ‘I didn’t do it. And nor did you. At least, I hope not. And my parents are unlikely suspects – they are very fond of both Highmounts. As for the servants, they seem content enough. Everyone else, though – you make a good point.’
‘You forgot Vickers being a Bolshevik. Not that I think that amounts to a motivation for murder, not until the revolution comes to pass, at least; and he is a pacifist, more or less.’ Donovan shook his head. ‘Is this how people like the Highmounts normally arrange their entertainments? By inviting everyone who might want to kill them to stay for the weekend?’
Kate laughed. ‘It is probably more common than you might think,’ she said.
– W. C. Ryan, A House of Ghosts
A House of Ghosts is available on Amazon right now!