Married couple Jack and Ali Gardiner move to a self-sufficient commune in the English Fens, desperate for fresh start. The local village is known for the witches who once resided there and Rosalind House, where the commune has been established, is a former psychiatric home, with a disturbing history. When Jack and Ali arrive, a chain of unexpected and unexplained events is set off, and it becomes clear that they are not all that they seem. As the residents become twitchy, and the villagers suspicious, events from the past come back to haunt them, and someone is seeking retribution… At once an unnerving locked-room mystery, a chilling thriller and a dark and superbly wrought ghost story, The Lingering is an exceptionally plotted, terrifying and tantalisingly twisted novel by one of the most exciting authors in the genre.
It’s been a while since I’ve read something that is genuinely creepy. The opening sets the scene well. It is subtly spooky so from the very beginning there is already an undertone of unease. The fact the whole book is set in an old asylum just adds to that atmosphere. The descriptions of Rosalind House are superb; the peeling paint, musty smell, abandoned equipment and rotting rooms all adds to the general unease and tension of the story.
There are moments of true terror which are written so cleverly, you just don’t know what is really going on. Until events come to ahead at least.
A lot of people have written about the spooky nature of the book but it is the characters that really had me intrigued. Jack and Ali have sold up and are moving to the commune. Clearly something has gone on between them – the tension of that car journey is almost palpable. I felt uncomfortable reading it, as if I was intruding. I was constantly left questioning what was going on with them. Why were they running? As the book progressed I got further drawn into their story, their interactions were fascinating – just who was in charge? Just when I thought I had a handle on it, SJI Holiday throws you a curve ball and suddenly you’re back to square one.
The others in the commune also had interesting back stories. Fairy Angela was lovely, if a little naïve, desperately wanting to prove the existence of ghosts. I developed quite a soft spot for her. Smeaton the leader of the commune, trying to keep everyone together and on the path to the light. He had a very calming presence even through the pages. I did feel a couple of other characters could have been fleshed out a little more. I would have loved to know more about Rose.
Throughout the book there are little snippets of a journal written by a doctor who worked in the asylum. They added a real depth to the book and hinted at the hospitals disturbing past. There were so many other stories that could be told, it left me thinking about the lives of all those patients.
I really enjoyed this book, yes it was creepy but it is so much more than a ghost story. If you want a book that will make you think, that will keep you guessing and will occasionally give you shivers, then this is the book for you. Pull your big girl/boy pants on and give it a go you won’t be disappointed.
Huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me onto the blog tour and to Karen at Orenda Publishers for my copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday is a pharmaceutical statistician by day and a crime and horror fan by night. Her short stories have been published in many places and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize with her story ‘Home from Home’, which was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in spring 2017. She is the bestselling author of the creepy and claustrophobic Banktoun trilogy (Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly) featuring the much-loved Sergeant Davie Gray, and has dabbled in festive crime with the critically acclaimed The Deaths of December. Her latest psychological thriller is modern gothic with more than a hint of the supernatural, which she loved writing due to her fascination and fear of ghosts. She is proud to be one of The Slice Girls has been described by David Mark as ‘Dark as a smoker’s lung.’ She divides her time between Edinburgh and London and you will find her at crime-fiction events in the UK and abroad.