Today it is my great pleasure to join the tour for The Lingering the frightfully addictive thriller from SJI Holliday. My thanks got to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of the tour and to publishers Orenda Books for the advance copy. Here is what the book is all about:
About the Book
Married couple Jack and Ali Gardiner move to a self-sufficient commune in the English Fens, desperate for fresh start. The local village is known for the witches who once resided there and Rosalind House, where the commune has been established, is a former psychiatric home, with a disturbing history.
When Jack and Ali arrive, a chain of unexpected and unexplained events is set off, and it becomes clear that they are not all that they seem. As the residents become twitchy, and the villagers suspicious, events from the past come back to haunt them, and someone is seeking retribution…
At once an unnerving locked-room mystery, a chilling thriller and a dark and superbly wrought ghost story, The Lingering is an exceptionally plotted, terrifying and tantalisingly twisted novel by one of the most exciting authors in the genre.
Now if there is one genre of book that I love as much as a crime thriller or mystery, it’s a good ghost story. With The Lingering I have been presented with a delightful combination of both, a gothic thriller that gripped me from the very beginning with its powerful sense of foreboding, and had me glued to the pages until I reached the end. This is no ordinary ghost story, for in amongst the strange and unusual goings on, you have a true grasp of something mysterious, and quite possibly horrific, happening in the background, something which the reader is kept guessing about until far into the book.
The book is set in an abandoned asylum, now repurposed as a commune in which all of the inhabitants have chosen to live by the land. They are not entirely cut off from the rest of civilisation – modern technology such as mobile phones and the internet are discouraged but not outright banned. It is down to the individual to set their own boundaries, but each is encouraged to embrace their new, unencumbered lifestyle. Ali and Jack are the newest members of the household and we join the story just as they are travelling towards their new lives. We know that they are seeking a new start, largely of Ali’s making, but what we do not yet know is why. This question, this cloud which hangs over them – no … more than that – shrouds them like a dense and swirling fog, is just one of the many question which will haunt the reader until the end of the story.
What I have loved about this book is the way in which SJI Holliday has taken an already spooky and unconventional setting and cranked the pressure, and the scare factor, up a notch. The asylum has a dark history and hearing this alone would put most rational thinkers off being part of this commune. We are treated to episodes from the era when the place was still a functioning asylum, given some of history first hand, as it is recalled in the journal entries of one of the Doctors who once worked there. The stories themselves are harrowing enough and yet still believable, the treatment patients received just part of normal mental health remedies back in the bad old days. Electric shock therapy, near drowning, keeping patients in isolation … all enough to make your blood curdle.
But these elements alone are not what will really make you cower. There are some very emotive and highly charged scenes in this book in which we are given the sense of something more than the world which Ali and Jack inhabit. Something very unusual and menacing which will keep your skin prickling. One scene in particular, near to the beginning, where Ali is simply taking a bath after their day of travelling, will give you a real sense of what this book is about and sets the tone for all that will follow. Slow, creeping tension builds with each page turn and the feeling of unease will grow along side it. It is very hard to describe but near magical to read. The author pulls you in and unnerves you without having to resort to gratuitous scares or shocks. It is a series of small events, little noises, footprints that cannot really be there, lights which wax and wane with no real reason – even the brief moments where Jack seems to zone out from all that is around him – that all add to the tension in the story, drawing you into the darkness which pervades a commune wholly dedicated to the light.
Now the characters in this book are quite eclectic. Ali and Jack seem quite grounded by comparison from the initial meetings with them all. You have some who are wholly dedicated to the commune and its principles, who do not take well to Ali’s presence as she struggles to settle in to her new life. Then there are others who have sought a new start there, but for entirely altruistic reasons, who do not fully subscribe to the more communal aspects of life at Rosalind House but who appreciate the simplicity of the lifestyle, away from the violence and stresses of the outside world. Then there is Angela, a young woman who has her own, both scientific and personal, reasons for wanting to be at the commune. She believes in all that the leader, Smeaton Dunsmore, has to teach, but senses there is more to the House than meets the eye. She never truly isolates herself from the outside world, being a more frequent visitor to the village than anyone, but she is probably also more committed to staying than anyone. I loved the blend of characters, the sense of the imbalance caused by adding Ali and Jack to the mix. It was almost politely toxic and the friction which grew from the early days just added to the sense that something bad was to happen.
How bad and how toxic you will have to read for yourselves. If you like a gothic ghost story, one which has a chilling and unnerving edge, but in which the corporeal may need to be feared as much as those we sense in spirit, then I’d say this book is for you. Unsettling, tense, breath stealing stuff. Definitely recommended.
To buy your own copy of The Lingering, follow these links:
About the Author
S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday is a pharmaceutical statistician by day and a crime and horror fan by night. Her short stories have been published in many places and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize with her story ‘Home from Home’, which was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in spring 2017. She is the bestselling author of the creepy and claustrophobic Banktoun trilogy (Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly) featuring the much-loved Sergeant Davie Gray, and has dabbled in festive crime with the critically acclaimed The Deaths of December.
Her latest psychological thriller is modern gothic with more than a hint of the supernatural, which she loved writing due to her fascination and fear of ghosts. She is proud to be one of The Slice Girls has been described by David Mark as ‘Dark as a smoker’s lung.’ She divides her time between Edinburgh and London and you will find her at crime-fiction events in the UK and abroad.
Follow the tour: