Haunted house stories, eh? There’s loads out there. Some follow generic plot formulae, bombarding you with strange sounds and the like, none of which manage to frighten you as you’ve seen it all before.
Some, on the other hand are expertly crafted, forcing you to feel like your own house is haunted as the words on the pages grip your soul like the ghost of a long-dead strangler, or something.
Christopher Henderson’s tale manages to take all the very best things of a haunted house story then gives it an almighty twist. I’m sure the characters of this book really wished it was simply a ghost house they were investigating. But no, they’re up against an even more terrifying antagonist.
Before I mention the plot I’d like to point out the setting of this story; 1970s London. Now I’ve never lived in the 70s, but I’ve seen enough old shows and movies and news footage, and heard enough stories from those around in that time, to get some kind of idea of how things were back then. Some books and films written/made in the present day that are set in the past really try too hard to remind you of this every five minutes. (Ahem – Stranger Things).
But here you never get that forced down your throat. There aren’t countless references to pop culture, songs in the charts, programmes on TV; the whole setting in subtly crafted, and I really appreciated that.
Things like women being treated with a lack of respect, the fact that everyone’s smoking all the time, and the supposedly state-of-art and exciting technology which is very basic by today’s standards; these kinds of things make the book feel unique and real without the prose needing to constantly yell that it’s the 1970s.
So what’s going on then? Our main dude, Harry Undine, is a guy with a special talent, although he’d be loathe to call it that. He’s part of a special team of paranormal investigators who check out strange happenings in supposedly ‘haunted’ buildings.
The team are full-on ‘in this for the science’, and Undine kind of hopes it is all explainable by said science. Oh, how wrong he is.
The team are approached by a lady cop, Jo, who wants them to investigate a weird old house that she happened to visit as part of her policing ting. The old lady who owns the house thinks there’s some supernatural shenanigans going on, and wants to get to the bottom of it. The team agree to help, secretly sceptical but interested enough to check it out.
Undine’s colleagues are portrayed really well. The banter between the three of them is genuine, with each one adding something different to the team’s dynamic. The enthusiastic Archie, the excitable Ray, and the miserable Undine.
Soon enough they venture inside the intimidating Lavender Edge with their primitive investigative equipment, ready to see what exactly is going on.
The tension created was top drawer. The house itself becomes a malevolent character that’s seemingly aware of these guys trying to work out what secrets it hides. I can’t say much more than that really.
Before long Undine needs to embrace his gift to save the day. What started as a straight-up haunting story suddenly turns into a cosmic horror-fest.
The ending is fantastical and world-bending. The dark realms beneath this material world battle to take over and tortured souls, forever imprisoned, plead to be released from their torment. It’s all great stuff and really takes the story on an unexpected tangent. The other-worldly descriptions and the horrors they contain is truly the stuff of nightmares.
The only real negative I found here was the name of the house. Something a little creepier would have made things that bit more terrifying. But then if that’s all I can criticize then that’s a good thing. I suppose having the house named after a nice smelling plant does make it scarier.
So if you’re tired of haunted houses and the ghosts that occupy their creaky floorboards, take a visit to Lavender Edge. Just remember to keep hold of your soul while you’re there.
Categories: book review