Help for the Haunted

Help for the Haunted by John Searles
Publication date: September 17, 2013 by William Morrow
Source: ARC provided by publisher for an honest review
Description from Goodreads:
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.

Capturing the vivid eeriness of Stephen King's works with the compelling quirkiness of John Irving's beloved novels, Help for the Haunted is that rare story that brings to life a richly imagined and wholly original world. From the very first page, it takes readers on a captivating journey, told in the heartbreakingly resonant voice of a young heroine who is determined to discover the truth about her family and what went wrong one snowy winter night.

My Take:

Help for the Haunted by John Searles was such a pleasant surprise. I just opened it to take a look and get a small sampling of the book because I had other books that needed to be read and reviewed first. Well, that didn't work - I dropped everything else and didn't stop reading until I had finished it. So much for prioritizing. This book swept me up into the mystery/crime suspense/supernatural story and didn't let go.

I really don't want to give anything away because this book should be experienced as a new and mostly unknown thing. There are a number of mysterious things in the story, and each one contributes to the suspense.

Help for the Haunted is a truly creepy story that starts off creepy for one reason, but as the reader makes her way through the book, it becomes creepy for other reasons as well. There is the supernatural thing which is fun and works so well with many aspects of the story line. Sylvie is the younger daughter of a couple who "help" those people who have problems of a certain type and haven't found the help they need from more conventional outlets. I loved how the pieces to the puzzle of Sylvie's family are slowly put together and hints and suggestions are given throughout the book without coming right out with the information. The suspense builds, then new information is given and a different kind of suspense builds.

I have written and rewritten this review three or four times trying to describe why I liked it so much without giving anything away.  I don't think I have explained it very well, but every time I start really digging into what I loved about the book I give something important away. So, suffice to say, I loved Help for the Haunted so much that I am recommending it to everyone who will listen to me. I am especially suggesting it now through the end of October. Such a fun read for this time of year.


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