The back cover blurb was more than enough to have me interested in the book.
"... a most unusual family their deep secrets, their harrowing tragedy, and, ultimately, a daughter's discovery of a dark and unexpected mystery."
Searles has achieved something that is getting harder and harder to do with this reader - he surprised me, he kept me on my toes and kept me guessing. His premise is unusual and his delivery of his tale kept me riveted.
Rose and Sylvester Mason have an unusual profession - they help those who need help ridding themselves, their family or their dwellings of haunted, possessed or dispossessed souls. Their children Sylvie and her older sister, also named Rose, are aware of but not really part of the work. Until the night Rose and Sylvester are killed - by someone their parents had tried to help.
A year later, Sylvie lives with her sister Rose as her guardian in the family home. Sylvie begins to question the case against her parents. Did she really see the killer? Searles moves the story from past to present, letting us be a silent witness to Sylvie's attempt to make sense of her life - and find the truth.
Sylvie is such an engaging narrator. The reader just wants to protect her, to warn her, to shield her from the inevitable results her searching will bring. The other characters made me wary - everyone else seemed to have their own agendas and secrets - from sister Rose, to the neighbour, the local priest, the reporter and more....
The search kept me off kilter. I suspected everyone - and everything. For Searles spins his story so that we are never quite sure of what is real and what is otherworldly. What is in the basement? "I saw it: the yellowy glow from the basement window. After all those months of darkness, whatever it was down there had turned on the light once more." Who is the strange girl who lived with them for a summer? What is Rose trying to hide from Sylvie? Who keeps dropping off food on their front stoop? Searles slowly but surely drops hints and unexplained clues, ensuring I read 'just one more chapter' until far too late one night. The reader has to notice those bread crumbs and follow them through to the unexpected and original finale.
Help for the Haunted was a completely different read for me - one I really enjoyed. Read an excerpt of Help for the Haunted. A reading group guide is also available.
John Searles is the author of the national bestsellers Boy Still Missing and
Strange but True. He frequently appears as a book critic on NBC's Today show and CBS's The Early Show. He is the Editor-at-Large of Cosmopolitan. His essays have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other national newspapers and magazines. He lives in New York City and can be found on Facebook and also on Twitter.
See what others on the TLC Book Tour thought. Full schedule can be found here. Fans of Jodi Picoult will want to pick this one up - she's the front cover blurb.