THE GHOST HUNTER
Received from author
Ashley Hunter just inherited an enormous property in rural England with the passing of her aunt, and the opportunity to escape her life for a while couldn't have come at a better time. Told repeatedly by her mother and fiance she's mentally unstable for claiming to hear and see ghosts, she's hoping the change of scenery will provide a much-needed and welcome respite.
Poor Ashley. Peace and quiet are simply not in the cards for her as she learns that not only is her aunt's house overflowing with ghosts, but there's also just a little something off about the town in which it's located. Not to mention a gorgeous stranger named Cristian seems intent on stalking her with increasing persistence while extending multiple offers to buy the house. But Ashley can't sell, her father disappeared here and she's determined to learn his fate.
Soon, the ghosts Ashley has befriended in the house start vanishing one by one, and frightening nightmares of an evil in the basement plague her existence as she struggles with an attraction to Cristian she's certain will yield nothing but pain. Ashley senses there's more to Cristian than an interested buyer as he seems to know secrets and speaks in riddles, leaving her with an expansive list of questions she must answer in order to find her ghosts, her father, and her own sanity.
The Ghost Hunter is the perfect read for this time of year, shifting us from the comfort of our homes to the very epicenter of spectral activity, dropping us into residence at a haunted house overrun by restless, but not altogether unfriendly, spirits bent on avoiding Purgatory. Completing the discomforting picture is a dark and dank basement housing sinister secrets and containing a decadent evil that threatens the safety of the entire town. Ghost stories are certainly nothing new, but this one combines the familiar transparent haunts with a fallen angel mythology, creating a tale that piques curiosity and dares us to solve the mystery before the characters do if we find ourselves up for the challenge.
Though the plot moves quickly and seamlessly integrates disparate supernatural elements into a new and fascinating folklore all it's own, female protagonist Ashley makes it extremely difficult to take notice of these positive elements. She comes into the story with severe trust issues, baggage from a life spent in mental institutions at the insistence of her own mother, the result of which has left her with numerous invisible scars and an almost non-existent sense of self-confidence. Her wariness to trust Cristian and the other characters is understandable in this context, however, she proves herself to be more untrustworthy than any of those around her. She invades their privacy at every possible opportunity, snooping through their possessions in the hope of gleaning information that will allow her to lower her guard. Instead of being upfront and requesting their honesty, she engages in various forms of trickery and deception to soothe her own restless mind, but yet she is perpetually shocked whenever information is withheld from her despite the insurmountable proof that she herself is incapable of the veracity she demands of others. She feels entitled to the truth but does little to earn it, instead repeatedly behaving in a way that leaves us with little choice but to root against instead of for her.
Cristian, on the other hand, is a character with whom a connection comes easily. His roguish charm and brusque Scottish speech patterns and mannerisms create an instant affection between him and us as readers, his strength and protectiveness coming second to a beautiful and noble soul. Though he is attracted to Ashley, he refuses to let her perpetual mind games affect him and pushes her away when he senses her ulterior motives, proving himself to be a man capable of seeing clearly through a haze of lust. The brief history we are provided gives us enough insight into his personality that our understanding of his thoughts and actions extends far deeper than the superficial knowledge we have of Ashley, adding an extra dimension to him that she sorely lacks. Despite his questionable taste in women, Cristian is an enjoyable romantic hero, one whose fate is constantly at the forefront of our minds as we turn the pages.
Overall, The Ghost Hunter is a quick read with a quality ghost story and well-developed secondary characters, but as the protagonists for me determine the level of my emotional involvement in any piece of fiction, Ashley's frustrating personality proved to be a barrier I just couldn't find my way around.