Why did I select this book? Firstly, the title seemed a safe bet - I like the whole haunted house genre and what else could 'A House of Ghosts' be about? The teaser tells you that it's set at the end of World War 1; in England and in a large manor house. So basically, Downton Abbey with spectres - sold!
In addition, there is a storm that traps the gathered individuals together, who all have mysterious secrets, and then one of them dies. Did I mention that they're gathered for a seance?
It's often said that a book's location is as much of a character as the people and here, the storm-battered island is a great tactic to really emphasise the feeling of being trapped. It taps into our psyche, I think, and helps to generate tension before you even get down to the plot. 'The Shining' and 'And Then There Were None' are two great examples of how confining characters amplifies the sense of danger. Which books or films manage to create edginess or suspense AND they're set outdoors in free ranging space?
It lends itself nicely to being a good old-fashioned murder mystery, especially when you factor in: Why have they been invited? What are their connections or secrets? Who is the killer amongst them?
I semi-disagree with Liz Nugent's quote on the front - the part that it is "unbearably creepy". I actually found it to be more like a Famous Five story, where the characters never act as if they're genuinely in fear for their lives but actually are revelling in the jolly jape of it all. Yes, I'm talking to you, Miss Cartwright and Donovan! I wasn't scared. Not even a little bit.
But the quote also said it was "beautifully written". Now that might be going a tad too far but I liked the pacing, the plot twists and the characterisations. It was an engaging read and an enjoyable world to dive into.
Any critcisms? Well, the whodunnit reveal is stretching the limits of credibility, that's all I'll say. And, call me picky, but I didn't like the approach of having the individual character's names as chapter titles. Do I really need a pointer to tell me who's perspective this part is about? And for that matter, should chapters even have titles or are numbers better?
Rating: 7/10 Any house that has a myriad of secret passageways gets my vote, although the cover design doesn't.