The Haunting of Ashburn House is the third book I am reviewing from the talented Darcy Coates. I am now officially up-to-date with the “Haunting of” series. (The other two, in order of publication, are The Haunting of Gillespie House and The Haunting of Blackwood House.) Perhaps I shouldn’t use the word “series.” Each book is a stand-alone story. However, there is a formula that persists in all the stories – a young female protagonist either rents or takes ownership of multi-floor house that ends up being haunted. In each case, she is not only new to the house but also to the community at large. In each house, there are mysterious items that pique the curiosity of the new occupants’. These items are related to the haunting that is to take place.
To clarify, I am not using the term “formula” in a bad way. The scenarios are the same, but the specific plot points vary from book to book with different facts and outcomes. They are not without twists. The Haunting of Ashburn House in particular does have an interesting turn of events.
Here’s a short synopsis. Adrienne has inherited an enormous and ancient manor from her Great Aunt Edith, who has recently passed away. Little does she know that she has also inherited several odd duties that are necessary if she is to live safely at Ashburn House. What do I mean by “safely?” I mean – guarding against the paranormal dangers that will threaten her. Little my little, she comes to understand that the house is not normal. After experiencing a succession of terrifying happenings, she must make sense of the clues that surround her in order to stop the terror. Some of these clues include messages that have been carved into walls and tables, an odd collection of candles, cautionary notes regarding the use of mirrors, old newspaper clippings of a tragedy that took place in the Ashburn House many years ago, and a mysterious grave on the property that has the most unusual inscription on the gravestone.
Coates excels at establishing mystery. The predicaments that Adrienne finds herself in captured my intrigue. I kept turning the pages, all while encountering new clues and developments, which in turn caused me yet more page-turning anxiety. This built-in anticipation worked well at helping me to look past some occasional dull moments. There are several interactions between Adrienne and townsfolk, Adrienne and her cat, etc. that sort of halt the story rather than move it along. There is unnecessary attention to certain details in several places; details that do not relate to the overall mysterious tone of the story. Conversely, I would have liked there to have been more of a background story on Adrienne. This would help readers to get better acquainted with the protagonist, thereby allowing for further empathy as she struggles through her terrifying situation.
But, as I have mentioned, there is much in this tale that holds the reader’s interest. Coates effectively casts her “foreshadows”; the dark mysteries that surround key items within and around the house. They lurk in between the lackluster elements of the plot and effectively beckon the reader to continue; to journey on until the mystery’s end.
Of the three books in “The Haunting of..” series, I like The Haunting of Gillespie House the best. It also happens to be the shortest of the three. Perhaps I prefer Coates as a novella writer? I would need read more of her works to be sure, and read more I will. (She has several other books about ghosts and haunted houses. Check out her website ) The Haunting of Ashburn House comes next on my list, followed by The Haunting of Blackwood House. However, all three are decent reads and I recommend them all.