Friday 6 March 2015

REVIEW: Sarah Rayne - Deadlight Hall: A Haunted House Mystery #5

Genre: Mystery / Supernatural
Publisher: Severn House Publishing
Publication Date: 1st April 2015
Pages: 240


I received an advance copy of Deadlight Hall from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book is published by Severn House Publishers.

Well now this is a book and a half. I say this because at the beginning I half hated it and half loved it. What transpired in my first venture into the world of Sarah Rayne was confirmation of the old prophecy – “Never give up on a book, because you never know where it may lead and how much pleasure you may end up getting out of it.”

Deadlight Hall is a building that has stood in the Oxfordshire countryside for many years. It has a long history. Much of it hidden and secret. A builder has started to refurbish it and University Professor Leo Rosendale has asked his colleague Dr Michael Flint, an amateur ghost hunter by all accounts, to go to the building and see if he can sense anything. When Flint visits the house, he has a huge sense of foreboding and can hear a voice whispering to him. Professor Rosendale also has a silver “golem” (a Jewish statue) to sell and asks Flint’s partner Nell to look after the sale.

What is the connection with Rosendale, Deadlight Hall, the golem and the ghosts? In this mosaic tale, nothing is ever as it seems. No one is ever as they seem. Everyone has secrets. Even the ghosts.

Now, the most annoyingly infuriating thing about this book? The narrative. When we meet our characters at the beginning, the conversations between Flint, Nell, Rosendale and combinations of all of the above, are written in such a way that they are the most incredibly posh English people you could ever possibly meet. It’s like the entire cast from Downton Abbey in present day. It was mind-bogglingly frustrating.

An example: (made up for explaining purposes) Normal speak in 2015 – Nell asked, “Would you like a cup of tea?” “Yes” said Michael. Actual speak Nell asked, “Would you like to partake of a delicious brew of the finest tea in one of ones fine bone china cups?” “That would be absolutely, splendidly wonderful my dear. I would be awfully delighted if you could add some of that delicious premium sugar as well!”

Now, the reason this was so annoying is the fact that do people still speak like that? Also it took thirty words to say the same thing that one word can do. This really annoyed me to the point of nearly binning the whole book.

Then, the story started to develop. I am not going to tell you anything more of the plot than I already have because I do not in any way want to spoil it for you. All I can say is that when it got into second gear, this story was simply superb.

The story basically tells the history of the goings on in Deadlight Hall. It features specifically around some happenings in the late 1800’s, then jumps back to the present day, then jumps to the 1940’s during WWII. It follows the plight of children staying at the house in all time periods and the ghosts that haunt their lives.

There are sections that are told through secret letters sent between 2 men during the war about sneaking Jewish children out of Poland to get them away from the clutches of the Nazis and Dr Josef Mengele. These scenes are absolutely delicious. The feelings of absolute fear they give you are outstanding. They are so harrowing that you will feel knots in the very pit of your stomach and as the story progresses, right to the very last pages, you will shed a tear or two at the outcomes.

When you get past the style of the narrative this is first class. Thankfully that style only rears its ugly head when the present time characters are in discussions and the flashback narrative is very relevant to the times.

There are quite a few twists in this story that at first may seem a bit confusing but all get explained as things unfold and you will not believe some of the directions the story takes.

To summarise: Try to ignore that style of the narrative (if, of course, it winds you up as it did me). What develops is a ghost story of the highest order. It will creep you out and make the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention. A lot. The way the story is written, particularly with the flashbacks to the times during the war, is absolutely divine.

This is book five in a series, so I have come to the party late. I will however be checking out numbers one to four.

General rating:

★★★★ Close to perfect.

Horror rating:

★★★★ This was verrrrry creepy.

You can buy Deadlight Hall: A Haunted House Mystery here:


Book Synopsis:

A long-ago crime continues to menace the present in this spine-chilling tale of supernatural suspense."

When Michael Flint is asked by a colleague to investigate a reputedly haunted house, he is intrigued. Leo Rosendale s childhood was blighted by a macabre tragedy in the grim Deadlight Hall a tragedy that occurred towards the end of World War II, involving a set of twins who vanished. The fate of Sophie and Susannah Reiss was never discovered, and Leo has never been able to forget them.

When Michael, together with his fiancee Nell, begins to explore Deadlight Hall s history, he discovers that in the 1880s another pair of sisters vanished from the house and that there may also be much older and darker secrets lurking within its walls.

As Michael and Nell gradually peel back the sinister layers of the Hall s unhappy past, they are unprepared for the eerie and threatening resonances they encounter nor for the shocking truth of what took place there one long-ago midnight.

Sarah Rayne's first novel was published in 1982, and for several years she juggled writing books with working in property, pounding an elderly typewriter into the small hours in order to meet deadlines.

Much of the inspiration for her dark psychological thrillers comes from the histories and atmospheres of old buildings, a fact that is strongly apparent in many of her settings - Mortmain House in A Dark Dividing, Twygrist Mill in Spider Light, and the Tarleton Theatre in Ghost Song.

She has written more than 25 books to date, and her work has met with considerable acclaim, with Tower of Silence being long-listed for the 2005 Theakston's Award. Her books are also published in America, as well as having been translated into German, Dutch, Russian and Turkish.

In 2011 she published the first of a series of ghost-themed books, featuring the Oxford don, Michael Flint, and the antiques dealer, Nell West, who made their debut in Property of a Lady.

Several years ago Sarah also wrote six contemporary horror books, originally under the pen-name of Frances Gordon and recently re-issued in e-Book format.

You can see more about Sarah at her website.

Sarah’s author page can be found here.

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