Jack and Ali are looking for a fresh start and a new home at Rosalind House, a self-sufficient commune established in a former psychiatric hospital.
But the couple are clearly not all they seem, and their arrival sparks a chain of unexpected and unexplained incidents.
As the disturbing history of Rosalind House and the nearby village comes to light, events from the past return to haunt the residents, and someone is seeking retribution…
The best ghost stories, for me anyway, balance a thin tightrope between reality and the supernatural. Veer too far into the realm of ghouls and ghosts, and the book teeters into a horror. Not enough chill, however, and you’re left with a psycho-drama. Whilst The Lingering is definitely at the drama end of this spectrum, it walks this tightrope expertly; providing just enough by way of ghostly goings-on to keep the shivers running down the spine whilst maintaining the tension required for a compelling domestic thriller.
Told from multiple perspectives the novel primarily focuses on married couple Ali and Jack, whose entry into the self-sufficient community of Rosalind House sets off a chain of events that quickly spiral out of control. From the off, it is clear that all is not well with Ali and Jack. From Jack’s rapidly shifting moods to Ali’s watchful demeanour, this is a couple with secrets and it is the gradual revealing of these that drives the plot forwards. It’s a stately start, which could be off-putting to some readers; especially those used to page-turning domestic thrillers. Stick with it though because Ali and Jack’s journey is going to some very dark places indeed and, once the pace picks up, you’re on a non-stop ride of chills and revelations right up until the very last page.
The supernatural elements are handled really well, with the focus very much on the psychological elements of the supernatural. You’re never really sure exactly what is real and what is imagined in The Lingering, a trait that fits very well with the crime/thriller elements of the plot and leads to a hybrid novel that perfectly captures the essence of a good ghost story whilst remaining true to its crime thriller roots. Holliday has a masterful control of narrative tension, gradually building up a creeping sense of claustrophobia and unease before drawing it all together into a chilling conclusion that is sure to leave you double-checking the shadows of a night time!
I was also impressed with Holliday’s handling of character. Jack and Ali aren’t the most likeable of people – Ali, in particular, is a difficult customer with plenty of sharp edges and disturbing thoughts – but Holliday does a great job of keeping the reader by their side. By alternating between their perspectives and those of existing commune members, such as naive Angela and commune leader Smeaton, you get a real sense of each person and begin to genuinely worry for the safety of the commune and the family that has been created within it. And the interspersed diary entries (from Dr Henry Baldock’s 1955 journal) do a fantastic job of foreshadowing the dark events to come.
The Lingering is a brilliantly creepy tale that blends the gothic and the contemporary to deliver a sharp, spooky shot of unease. A fantastic blend of Susan Hill and Stephen King, this haunting book is a must for fans of the supernatural story as well as for those seeking a psychological thriller that’s prepared to offer something a little bit different. Original, dark, thrilling and atmospheric, read it with the lights on and – just a tip – maybe avoid reading this one in the bath!
The Lingering by SJI Holliday and published by Orenda Books is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, and Amazon. My thanks go to the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book as part of an honest and unbiased review, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me onto this blog tour and organising it. The blog tour continues until 30 November 2018 so do check out the other stops along the way!