Tag Archives: ghosts

Carol Goodman — The Widow’s House

Clare and Jess Martin Move from NYC to a small town in the Hudson River Valley, to hopefully give them a new start on their marriage and their writing. They move into an old crumbling mansion owned by their former professor from a local college where they both attended school. According to local rumor, the house is haunted. Clare sees or imagines a ghost several times in the first few months at the house and begins writing a novel about a woman who left her baby on the back steps to freeze and then drowned in the pond behind the house. As Clare investigates local records for her book, she finds the facts don’t always match the rumors.

I’m not a big fan of ghost stories. I believe they’re meant to frighten the reader, and since I’m not afraid of ghosts, they lose the desired effect. But this was a good mystery plot, and the book left you wondering whether or not the house was truly haunted.

I couldn’t connect with any of the characters—Clare, a psychological mess living with abusive husband Jess; Monty, retired professor with an overblown ego; Katrine, nosey realtor who keeps showing up at the house, and others we don’t get to know well.

Good mystery plot, good setting, but a ghost story.

Stephen King — Duma Key

Duma Key is the first Stephen King novel I’ve read in many years. Even though he is an excellent writer, I’m not a fan of horror. You usually find his books classified as horror, but they could also fall into thriller, suspense, fantasy, psychological, supernatural, paranormal, ghost story, and mystery genres. Duma Key is all of these.

I’m not sure why I decided to read this book; maybe because the setting is in Southwest Florida where I live. I found the story intriguing from the beginning. Edgar Freemantle, builder and contractor, is almost killed in an accident that damages his right hip and leg, crushes his skull, and he loses his right arm. Due to his unpredictable behavior while recovering, his wife leaves him.

His shrink suggests Edgar should take up a hobby and go on sabbatical. He leases “Big Pink,” a house hanging over the water at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico on Duma Key. Here he begins to draw and then paint, learning at a furious pace. His ghost arm drives him.

Walking the beach, Edgar meets Wireman, and they become friends. Wireman is caretaker for an old woman, Elizabeth Eastlake, who floats in and out of dementia. Elizabeth owns the habitable part of Duma Key, including Big Pink, and she is an integral part of the story.

The story begins as psychological and/or supernatural thriller, moving on to become a ghost story. It doesn’t become a “horror story/monster movie” until about three-quarters of the way through. By that time it had me hooked, and I had to keep reading to see what would happen. Edgar, Wireman, and Jack (who was hired to help Edgar and became his friend) join forces to battle the monsters.

As I said at the beginning, Stephen King is an excellent writer.

Colin Cotterill — I Shot the Buddha

I reviewed another of Cotterill’s novels in 2012, one of my first posts. He still holds my interest throughout. The combination of humor, fantasy, and mystery set in Laos in the late 70’s sounds weird (and it is).

Dr. Siri Paibour is a retired coroner. He and his wife, Madam Daeng, love a good mystery. There are three mysteries, three plots in this story. One takes Siri and Daeng to Thailand, accompanying a Buddhist monk. Then there is the disappearance of Buddhist monk Noo, who Siri leaves in the hands of police officer and friend, Phosy. Another mystery concerns a claim for a new Buddha. Civilai, a retired Lao official and another of Siri’s friends, is asked to investigate.

The book is filled with spirits, good and evil. There is a village populated by psychics and a town practicing the Buddhist version of “Black Mass.” All of this is contained in a good plot and told with a sense of the absurd.

This is the last book in the Dr. Siri series. If you haven’t read any of them, you might want to start at the beginning with The Coroner’s Lunch, which was republished in 2015. Or you can jump in anywhere and enjoy.