Review: The Haunting of Emily Stone by Amy Cross (2015)

The Haunting of Emily StoneReview by Jaq D Hawkins.

I found this rather good.

The story starts out in the prologue with a horrific murder that happened two-hundred years before. It’s rather gruesome so consider yourself warned. There are some more disturbing scenes later, but it isn’t constant gore, I promise!

The premise of the story is that a paranormal investigator gets a case that looks like it may be the real thing and becomes very excited about it, only to be disappointed when irrefutable evidence proves it to be an elaborate hoax. Only it wasn’t entirely faked. A little girl had a genuine experience and her mother tried to cash in on it, faking photographs and coaching the child to perform for the investigators and media.

Years later when the girl is grown and has a daughter of her own, the malevolent spirit returns and Emily’s daughter  begins to suffer the same ghostly experiences that she had herself as a child. She needs help, and the only qualified person she knows is the investigator who wrote her off as a liar years ago.

The time jumps were driving me batty at first, but I got used to them eventually. Personally I thought it could have been done more sequentially and still get the full effect, but it still works with the flashbacks.

I wondered at times if Social Services wasn’t even scarier than the ghost. The tension of being caught between agencies that think a child is being abused and really nasty supernatural phenomena that no one is going to believe really made the story work.

The writing was very effective, but needs to skip lines between changing pov. There was a long sequence covering several characters that jumped too suddenly from one to another.

Despite these small problems and a few typos, I really enjoyed the story and thought it was well done. The time differential had a reasonable explanation and the depiction of the world of the dead was fairly original. I liked that the investigator had enough common sense to consider alternative ways of dealing with the ghost and could feel a mother’s panic while trying to protect her daughter.

Characterisation was strong and the plot moved at a good pace, never dithering. I had been wanting to read a good ghost story for a while and this definitely qualified. Gory bits were in keeping with the plot, not gratuitous. The suspense was well balanced too. The dynamics between the characters added dimensions to the story and subplots were nicely woven in. I found myself wanting to keep going back and reading just a little more, especially towards the end when things really got exciting.

There were some English references and slang that might not translate to non-Brits. Mention of  Blackpool (the most gloriously tacky of tacky seaside towns in Britain) and the term “half inched” (pinched, or stolen, for those who don’t know rhyming slang). The ghostly happenings translate just fine though and all I can say is I really enjoyed the story. 4.5 stars.