I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.THE SIREN AND THE SPECTER by Jonathan Janz
Published by Flame Tree Press on September 6, 2018
Genres: Crime, Dark Fiction, Fiction, Ghost, Haunted House, Horror, Mystery, Noir, Occult & Supernatural, Paranormal, Psychological Horror, Supernatural, Suspense, Thriller
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When David Caine, a celebrated skeptic of the supernatural, is invited by an old friend to spend a month in “the most haunted house in Virginia,” he believes the case will be like any other. But the Alexander House is different.
Built by a 1700s land baron to contain the madness and depravity of his eldest son, the house is plagued by shadows of the past and the lingering taint of bloodshed. David is haunted, as well. For twenty-two years ago, he turned away the woman he loved, and she took her life in sorrow.
And David suspects she’s followed him to the Alexander House.
FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launching in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.
THE SIREN AND THE SPECTER, by Jonathan Janz, is one of his most complex and “layered” novels to date. In any book, your focus is on either the supernatural OR the human element during certain points. However, in this one, Janz has blended these two components together so well that they are nearly inseparable from each other.
“You can’t reason away the unreasonable . . .”
We begin with David Caine, a man known for his books ultimately debunking believed supernatural phenomenon. His old college friend, Chris Gardiner, along with his overly intrusive wife, Katherine Mayr, have purchased The Alexander House: possibly “the oldest haunted house in America” . Katherine is quite adamant that David will write a book that goes against his natural predisposition and admit that this house is haunted; thereby, giving her idea of hosting a ‘haunted attraction’ quite a large boost in credence.
Chris’ motives are not quite as clear.
“. . . I don’t presume to know the truth about the Alexander House. The fact of the matter is that no one knows the truth.”
David’s character is as detailed as they get. Mentally haunted by an incident in his past where he pushed away a woman he loved, he is literally full of contradictions and conflicts in both his mental thoughts and physical actions. Janz could not have created a better, more “perfect” character for this role if he tried. This is a man you can’t help but feel for, whether you like or dislike his motions. He is simply too real, too human, to look at as mere words on a page. He quickly becomes an actual person to the readers, flaws and all.
“. . . there comes a point when disbelief turns into stupidity . . .”
The legends state that a huge, sadistic man–Judson Alexander–was given that out of the way house to indulge in his acts of depravity away from the town.
“. . . They gave him this territory to limit what he could do . . . “
Even though the man himself has been dead for centuries, this doesn’t stop Janz from creating an atmosphere–both in the Alexander house, itself, and the surrounding area–even more menacing and fear-provoking than before. Every small detail, from the layout of the rooms to the lifestyles and emotions of the two homes closest in proximity, add to this distinctive unease. A sense of almost palpable dread transfers itself from off the pages directly into the reader’s mind. I can honestly say that I caught myself either shivering or gaping open-mouthed at many points during the course of this novel, so real were the feelings it evoked within me.
“. . . Homes have personalities . . . some are sullen, some are cheerful. This one– . . . –is less predictable . . . “
“It’s like it was . . . hiding from me . . . even walked the property in all directions . . . And I never saw the Alexander House.”
As the book progresses we begin to glimpse the depths at which this superstitious legacy has touched all in its vicinity. Without giving away any spoilers, I can safely say that few–if any–readers would be able to even guess as to the lengths Janz goes with these individuals and locations. You’ll not find any two the same–ALL original and some . . . damaged . . . in various ways. Despite the number of divergent threads, I never once felt “lost” or confused. I merely couldn’t stop turning page after page to read the next episode about to unfold.
“. . . Saying words that end up being true . . . is not the same as being honest.”
From the centuries old Alexander House, the mysterious Rappahannock River, small Oxrun Park, and neighboring homes, there is a distinctive feel to this novel that if ever there was a place for the “impossible” to become the “everyday”, this was it.
“. . . You believe certain things your whole life. Those beliefs, they dig grooves into your brain, like a record player, and the needle doesn’t leave the grooves. For many years you don’t see anything . . . to knock the needle out of place . . . “
Overall, one of the best novels I’ve ever read that infuses the supernatural so seamlessly with human nature–and I don’t necessarily mean the “best” of what humans have to give. Janz didn’t just rely on either one element or the other in THE SIREN AND THE SPECTER (which would have been fairly predictable to some), but rather brought the combination to an entirely new level. Throughout “most” novels, I am able to predict some parts long before the ending. However, due to the powerful blending of details here, the few “suspicions” I had missed the mark completely. Despite the literary complexity of this story, Janz’ skill made it easy to follow along for the entire duration. The only real complaint I had was when it ended.
I still wanted more.
“That place is deceased . . . “