Published by Black Owl Books on March 26, 2018
Genres: Crime/Serial Killer, Dark Fiction, Fiction, Ghost, Haunted House, Horror, Occult & Supernatural, Paranormal, Psychological Horror, Supernatural, Suspense
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"The dead are restless here..."
Remy is a tour guide for Carrow House, a notoriously haunted building. When she's asked to host seven guests for a week-long stay to research Carrow's phenomena, she hopes to finally experience some of the sightings that made the house famous.
At first, it's everything they hoped for. Then a storm moves in, cutting off their contact with the outside world, and things quickly become twisted. Doors open on their own. Seances go disastrously wrong. Red liquid seeps from behind the wallpaper. Their spirit medium wanders through the house during the night, seemingly in a trance.
Then one of the guests dies under strange circumstances, and Remy is forced to consider the possibility that the ghost of the house's original owner, a twisted serial killer, still walks the halls.
But by then it's too late to escape.
THE CARROW HAUNT is the latest novel from author Darcy Coates. This novel had so much in terms of genre-overlap! We have horror in many forms: supernatural, psychological, a long-dead serial killer, gruesome deaths, ghosts, gore, and bodies. Also present is a strong thriller/detective element that had me second guessing just about every idea that I attempted to predict.
“Welcome, dear ones, to the dreaded Carrow House.”
Remy Allier gives guided tours through the area’s “most haunted house” once a week, when the weather permits. Located in an island-like area, with only one bridge spanning Carrow’s land to the “mainland”, the isolation of the location is as absolute as it can get. As a tour guide, Remy knows all aspects of Carrow’s long and sullied history. Built by John and Marie Carrow as a sanitarium initially, a tragic fire led to it being renovated into a Grand Hotel.
Their biggest mistake was in the hiring of a certain gardener, by the name of Edgar Porter.
” . . . in small towns like the ones nearest Carrow House, there was a pervasive subconscious assumption that the rich and influential couldn’t be criminals . . . “
Even after the initial saga was over, the estate carried with it an unmistakable taint. The series of deaths and disappearances continued on, unabated, until it was eventually left untenanted. A spoiled rich teenager, April Mahon, had the former hotel purchased for herself. She took great pains in having the original furnishings restored to how it was in its murderous heyday.
“. . . There’s a recurring theme of tragedy befalling anyone who lives in the building . . . aside for brief research-related stays, no human has attempted to live in it since.”
After one tour, Remy is approached by a rich businessman, Mark Sulligent, with a proposition to rent Carrow House for a two week period. He plans on studying the psychic phenomena through various means; a medium, a modern-day ghost hunter, and a few select individuals with an interest in Carrow.
“. . . Two weeks in the state’s most haunted house. This is either going to be a great decision or the worst experience of my life.”
One of Darcy Coates’ greatest strengths in this novel is in her choice of characters. Each and every one of them carries a unique personality–some quite at odds with others–and I found every individual to be both mentally captivating and original. I never caught myself attempting to figure out “who was who” for they were all completely fleshed out as the novel progressed.
“. . . It took a certain kind of person to appreciate a malevolent supernatural entity.”
Whether you like or dislike their personalities, each character remains “true” to themselves and behaves exactly as the author has led us to believe they will. We have some very mysterious individuals, as well as those that go through no deception in showing just who they are and what they think of the others.
“. . . It was the truth, but delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammer . . . “
When things start to get heated, Coates leaves us with a genuine feeling for each of the house’s “guests”, and I couldn’t help but speculate on what other motives these individuals may have been harboring that led them to this place.
“. . . Carrow is supposed to have unusually high energy levels. It’s part of the reason its spirit activity is so elevated.”
As for the atmosphere in this book, words alone can’t even begin to do it justice! The first third or so of this novel sets the background, characters, and present situation to absolute perfection. I felt completely immersed in the shadows at Carrow as if I were a “silent observer”, actually IN the gothic mansion, myself. After that point, the action ramps up exponentially, and the oppressive, disquieting feeling becomes nearly overwhelming at times. This is where it became impossible to distance myself, mentally, and I began to carry the book everywhere I went.
” . . . .people can be afraid of things. Horribly, permanently afraid . . . the fear takes root in their lives and twists them and controls them . . .”
Carrow House, itself, is as much a character as any other here. Its unique location, connection to so many horrific and gruesome deaths all throughout its history, and ability to seemingly hold so many spirits and dark secrets within its walls, make it one of the most formidable forces there.
“. . . now that it has guests, it’s waking up.”
Overall, a supernatural horror novel that captured my attention from the very beginning, tightening its hold over me the further my reading progressed. There was truly so much that I found “new” going on in this story, that I never once was able to guess at an accurate conclusion. Coates managed to keep throwing new twists into the mix, just at the points when I thought I might manage a “guess”. This tactic combined with the omnipresent foreboding atmosphere, made for a novel that I never wanted to put down.