October 1866, and Father Oliver Grafeld is summoned by Archbishop Manning to undertake a delicate task – an exorcism. For Oliver has an ability, to see the unseen and to drive it out. But he has never faced anything as deadly as what is lurking in Candleton Hall.
Lady Seaton is at her wits end – voices, knocking, pools of blood and an horrendous woman dressed in black are plaguing the house and her in particular – and Oliver is the only person who can possibly help. But when deaths begin and the Presence stalking the house begins to target Oliver, it is a race against time to solve the mysteries of the house’s past, to ensure everyone involved has a future.
This has been sitting on my Kindle for about eight years – I’m usually pretty bad at reading non-series books from authors who have series that I enjoy, so it’s not unusual. It’s fair to say I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one, so I put it into my 2020 Vision challenge to make me read. So now I’ve read it. Good for me.
Let me be clear, in case you missed the near 100 reviews that I’ve posted of Paul’s work, I love his work – beautiful depictions of history, involving lead characters, complex mysteries, generally with massive body counts… If memory serves, there was one book that didn’t grab me. One of Paul’s series, The Canterbury Tales is different from the rest, as it features some supernatural elements. That’s not a problem, as some of these are excellent books, notably A Haunt Of Murder, which I really must get round to reading again soon – there’s a wonderful use of the supernatural element in a fair play mystery. But one of the books, Ghostly Murders, didn’t work for me, mainly as it wasn’t really a mystery. It was a ghost story first and foremost, which isn’t my sort of thing.
So which was The Haunting most like? A Haunt Of Murder (yay!) or Ghostly Murders (boo!)?
Unfortunately, the second.
There’s every possibility that fans of ghost stories will enjoy this one, but not me. In particular, I didn’t find it particularly scary, which I imagine is pretty important in a ghost story. There were no particular surprises in the motivations and revelations, and the historical detail didn’t seem to be anywhere near as deep as in Paul’s usual writing.
Go and read almost anything else by Paul – there are so many great historical mysteries out there – but this isn’t a mystery and it didn’t work for me. I may be in the minority as it seems to be one of Paul’s highest rated books on Goodreads… what do I know, anyway?