Source: Review copy
Publication: 15 November 2018 from Orenda Books
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.
‘By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes’
That’s the first reaction that Angela, a resident of the Rosalind House Community Project has whilst waiting for the commune’s newest recruits, Jack and Ali Gardiner. Why she feels that way, she doesn’t know, but she can smell it in the air and it’s not good. Not good at all.
Angela is waiting for Jack and Ali Gardiner, a couple whom no-one really knows very much about. Unusually, they are joining the Community without having undergone the usual getting to know you rituals that everyone else has been through to make sure that they are suited to the way of life that the residents lead and can live compatibly with them.
We come to learn that Jack used to be a policeman and Ali a psychiatric nurse. They have both had very stressful lives and indeed Jack seems to be suffering from some kind of mild PTSD. This, then, is their reason for wanting to escape the rat race and embrace a simpler, kinder, life.
The Rosalind House Community is situated just outside a village in the Fens, and in a somewhat dilapidated Gothic building which once housed a residential psychiatric hospital about which there are some very dark stories and the house itself dates back to the 16th Century. Extracts from the diary of Dr Henry Baldock , a visitor and observer to the hospital in the 1950’s appear in the book, alerting us to some of the terrible treatments to which patients were subjected.
The Community was founded by Smeaton Dunsmore, himself brought up in a commune, and it is at the less dippy end of the spectrum, focusing on living a simple, kind and self-sufficient life, where the residents aim to work and live together in harmony without too much ‘modern noise’ intruding.
Angela is the community’s resident ghost hunter. She’s sure that the house is hiding some spiritual secrets and has a range of equipment to see whether she can seek out the existence of ghosts.
The relationship between Jack and Ali is disturbing and when Ali starts to experience some very odd moments the house seems to come alive as the reader begins to feel some strange disturbances in the atmosphere.
This is the backdrop for a tense and chilling story that builds momentum and creeps you out from the very first pages. There’s a bath scene…well, let’s just say I’m sticking to showers from now on.
Strong characterisation and well plotted story lines help this Gothic thriller chiller-fest of a book to stay real and yet manage to put the tingles up and down the reader’s spine.
The Lingering is a well-paced book that messes with your head and will chill you to the bone. Disturbing and nerve wracking, it explores the nature of evil and how the past inevitably comes back to haunt you as well as asking some interesting questions about the nature of control.
Verdict: Addictive, menacing and downright spooky, this tale is perfectly pitched for dark winter nights.
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.