Ghost stories are always good this time of year. From the start of October all the way through to just after New Years' - ghost stories really do get under your skin when the weather is colder. I like to re-read books like The Haunting of Hill House and The Turn of the Screw to definitely get me in the mood for Halloween and then, the cold and strange aura of Christmas. When we talk about the 'ghost story' most of us think of the Victorian Era and yet, books such as The Haunting of Hill House (which indeed, is missing some physicality when it comes to ghosts, but is a haunting nonetheless), Peter Straub's Ghost Story, and Susan Hill's chilling Christmas Eve which starts The Woman in Black - are all written in the modern era.
As we come to the 21st century however, ghost stories start to dwindle somewhat. Authors become more interested in gore and shock horror than they were in crafting the perfect, atmospheric gothic ghost horror story. It was really quite a shame. But, we have recently seen a resurgence in ghost stories and with this book entitled "The Hiding Place" by Amanda Mason, we will investigate the pros and cons to this resurgence taking place within the confines of this novel.
The first 'pro' I found to this novel was the atmosphere. The atmosphere really did feel like a ghost story. It was dark and eerie, it had ghosts and things that went bump in the dark. The atmosphere and the fact that it is set almost on the coast (in Whitby, England) shows us that this is a very serious ghost story indeed. It has everything from the dangers of the sea all the way to the olden houses that litter the older places on the coastal lines of England.
Unfortunately, this was then let down by a 'con' which was that the plot was very convoluted and complicated. If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times: if you are writing a horror story, you need to make sure your ideas are simple so that your story can be backed up by its atmosphere and its tension because that is where the prize lies. If you start making complicated plots with lots and lots of characters, twists, underdeveloped sections and complex narrative techniques you will find that your reader spends so much time trying to figure out what you're talking about that they cannot get lost in the atmosphere of the story.
Another 'con' to this novel was its ending. I don't seem to understand exactly what happened at the end (and I have no intention of telling you either) but it was written terribly. There was no tension when approaching the end of the novel apart from bits written in italics to symbolise thought - and as we know, that is a pretty lazy way of doing things. The ending was sloppy and the book felt unfinished.
Another 'con' is the characters regarding time and place. The writer is really trying to tell me that in this age of technology, there are people who had heard of this particular place but had never heard of the 'strange goings-on' surrounding it. One Google Search of The Ancient Ram Inn (though sounding soothing enough), will bring up not the location but many stories of urban legend and executions. It is rather unbelievable that in this day and age, there would be characters who know of the place but not 'about' it.
In conclusion, though I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere that was created from the scene the writer had, I felt that the plot and the unlikeable and often unbelievable characters (along with strange character quirks) were a let down.
However, I would always encourage the reader to make up their own mind about the novel and so, go away and read the book for yourself and see what you think of it.