By: Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson with Tim Waggoner
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: September 2011
Reviewed by: Karen Shaw Suriner
Review Date: November 11, 2011
Amber, Drew, and Trevor have grown apart since their high school ghost hunting days. Haunted by the experience of being trapped together in a house fire, they find their high school memories compromised by the trauma, and they handle it in very different ways. Drew and Trevor threw themselves headlong into demanding careers, the former as a psychiatrist and the latter as a writer. Amber has become a shadow of her former vivacious self: withdrawn, insecure, and reliant on psych meds to function.
Fifteen years later, the trio has returned to their hometown to attend their class reunion and search for answers to the many lingering questions about what happened to them that night. Funny thing is, other reunion attendees keep dying inexplicably – in suspiciously close proximity to the three former buddies.
Gingerly at first, then with building determination, they search for answers about the tragedy that nearly killed them fifteen years ago only to spare them for a much worse fate. In the course of their research they learn a great deal about the paranormal and ultimately uncover the truth about their experiences, rekindling their friendships in the process. As it turns out, sometimes a house is not just a house…
This novel is the first work of fiction by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, founders of The Atlantic Paranormal Society (T.A.P.S.) and co-stars of the popular Syfy show Ghost Hunters. Intended to be the debut of a series, it was written with Tim Waggoner, who according to the credits has “published more than twenty novels of fantasy and horror.”
The prose is polished and at times eloquently executed – markedly different from Hawes and Wilson’s nonfiction books about their experiences with T.A.P.S., leading one to wonder if they participated as plot consultants and turned over the actual writing duties to Waggoner. Certainly one of the most interesting facets of the plot is the variety of the characters’ paranormal experiences: psychism, EVPs, spirit photography, residual hauntings, and possession, just to name a few. The writers make good use of the storyline to illustrate different kinds of experiences and to show the basics of a Ghost Hunters-style investigation.
Storywise, it’s a comfortable stew of traditional paranormal horror, featuring the familiar flavors of mystery, action/adventure and pop psychology. No particular new ground is being broken here but fans of the genre are likely to enjoy this amble through the predictable territories of heroes finding their inner confidence and battling dark forces. The ending is logical and cohesive, if not earth-shattering.
The characters are reasonably well developed but a bit bland. The portrayal of Amber as anxiety-ridden and utterly in need of assistance to manage her life, while the male characters are relentlessly methodical and sensible, is a trite and unimaginative plot device. In a more general sense, the depictions of good and evil in this novel are two-dimensional and not overly complex, although there is a healthy dose of basic psychology and even a few moments of romance.
Overall, this unpretentious novel is the literary equivalent of Dinty Moore beef stew: easy and uncomplicated, it’s satisfying even if it doesn’t warrant writing home.
Quill says: An amiable pop horror tale that is less predictable than rereading your Stephen King collection again.