The Haunting of Maddy Clare
Debut author St. James has written an atmospheric and resoundingly old-fashioned ghost story that pulls you in from the first pages. Sarah Piper, a young woman with a wretched past, is alone and adrift in London, working for a temp agency in 1922. When a job offer comes in to work as an assistant to handsome and wealthy Alistair Gellis, a researcher who writes about ghosts, Sarah hesitates but accepts the strange job. She travels with him by motorcar to the distant and (for her) exotic countryside. She’s far from home the next day when she learns she’s not just going to be taking notes for Alistair, but will go alone into the barn where the hauntings are taking place. It turns out that Alistair needed her because the ghost of Maddy Clare becomes too violent around men. Soon Alistair and Sarah realize that they’re not just investigating a haunting but also a murder.
This book is just right for those who prefer suspense to be scary but not too scary. It’s haunting but (despite disturbing elements) not nightmarish. St. James’s writing evokes the time period without pretension, the pacing is just right, the ghost story plausible, and the love story important but not all-consuming. Recommended.