Published by William Morrow on July 15th, 2014
Genres: adult, mystery-thriller, paranormal
Source: Book Tour
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It begins with a call in the middle of snowy February evening. Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation, helping "haunted souls" find peace. And yet, something in Sylvie senses that this call is different than the rest, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church's red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep only to wake to the sound of gunfire.
Nearly a year later, we meet Sylvie again struggling with the loss of her parents, and living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened the previous winter.
As the story moves back and forth in time, through the years leading up to the crime and the months following, the ever inquisitive and tender-hearted Sylvie pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night, as she comes to terms with her family's past and uncovers secrets that have haunted them for years.
It’s frustrating to me when I am really into and enjoying a book only to lose steam at about the halfway point or beyond, and then be underwhelmed by the rest of the book from that point on. That’s pretty much what happened with Help for the Haunted. I really enjoyed the characters, the atmosphere, the story, so much so that I thought my rating would be anywhere from a 4 to a 5, but then something happened–that I still can’t pinpoint exactly–to affect my enjoyment of the book. What I think it was mostly was the length. The book gets a bit repetitive after awhile because of the way the plot is set up.
The storyline of Help for the Haunted basically goes like this: There are two sisters, Rose and Sylvie. Their parents are basically paranormal experts (as well as anyone can be) that help people with hauntings and possessions, and other similar afflictions. One night they get a phone call from someone they helped in the past asking them to meet at a church they attended nearby. The parents and youngest daughter go, not knowing that a trap has been set for them, and they end up dying. The other daughter, Sylvie, survives the ordeal, and the book is a back and forth of what really happened that night and Sylvie’s coming to terms with the death of her parents. The chapters go from the past and the events leading up to that night, to the present, as Sylvie is a teenager and dealing with her older sister Rose as her caretaker.
I don’t mind books that deal with flashbacks, and I thought both POVs were interesting. Usually one will stand out to me more than the other, and in this case, I liked them both equally. The writing was pretty excellent, but I just felt like the book went on for too long. I spent over 300 pages trying to figure out who had killed Sylvie’s parents and whether they were legit helping people or not, and the conclusion of the book just ended up being kind of anticlimactic for me. It also dragged on too long. With all the lead up to the climax, I guess I just expected more. Obviously this is something I can’t talk about without revealing spoilers, and I do think this book is worth investing your time in, because the story is compelling enough and the subject was pretty fascinating.
In the end, this was a pretty decent effort and I did like the mystery. Parts of this boo were creepy and I enjoyed the family dynamics, but I was really hoping for a little more considering the time I invested in it. I would definitely read more of this author’s work but it would depend on the subject matter. There are some author’s books that I will read no matter what, but since this was not a fave, it would have to be of interest to me. Bottom line is, I did not connect as much as I could have and I think the length could have been edited down a little. That said, it’s a great one to read in the fall, and it’s a book that I would recommend around Halloween for the spooky factor.
Book clubs that sign up to chat with John Searles about Help for the Haunted could win a tote bag of books for each member of their book club! Find out more details about John Searles’ goal to speak to a book club in each state of the United States over at Book Club Girl!