Thorns and Cross – sounds like I’m about to embark upon a seasonally appropriate Easter theme post, doesn’t it? Christ wearing the crown of thorns, Christ nailed to a cross, etc. etc. and etc. All on account of a typo. Damn that “s” for being so close to the the “e” on the keyboard! Let’s remove the “s” in “Thorns” and replace it with the correct “e” and we now have Thorne and Cross – two authors who often partner together to write Gothic ghost stories. I first discovered them when I read and reviewed one of their works: The Ghosts of Ravencrest. I found the book very much to my liking.
Having familiarized myself with the pair, I decided to dissect the duo. By this I mean that I wanted to read their “solo” novels. I began with Haunted by Tamara Throne. Overall, I enjoyed it. I will explain why but first let me establish the novel’s setting and describe the house that is at the center of the story.
David Masters, best selling author of paranormal books, moves to a Victorian mansion off the coasts of California known as Baudey House. Yes, it is haunted. He knows it too. Or at least he expects it to be haunted; that what the rumors say anyway. As a paranormal kinda’ guy, it’s what he wants. The house is part of an odd seaside community that is a mixture of cantankerous yokels and new age flakes. Nearby the house is a lighthouse haunted by a headless ghost. And there are plenty more where that (or in this case, “he”) came from! Inside the Baudey House there are spirits, some of which are visual echoes that can only be perceived by those that that have sixth sense. Others are more interactive – more deadly! There are certain rooms where presences are so strongly felt that it is impossible to remain inside of them for any length of time. Somewhere in the house there is a secret passage that leads to a dungeon. It is up to Masters to find it. Then there are ceramic, hand-made dolls hidden in various places throughout the house. How weird is that!
Did I mention the murders? At different times over the course of more than one hundred years, grizzly murders have occurred inside the house. Bodies were found in various states of dismemberment. It is no wonder Baudey House became known as “Body House.”
Let me now describe the things I find most appealing about this book. The first has to do with the overall story. Thorne serves up a “full meal of a plot” with several interesting angles, many well-rounded characters, numerous situations of captivating drama, and a compelling but chilling backstory. If I had to choose one word to summarize the story, that world would be “fulfilling.”
My second piece of praise is more specific. Of all the authors that have dealt with the subject of “cold spots”, I find Thorne’s descriptions to be the most visceral, which for me translates to “frightfully descriptive.”
Cold spots, according to the According to the Associations of the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena:
“… are small areas (usually a lot smaller than a room) that feel significantly colder than the surrounding area. They are considered by some to be a sign of a ghost in the area. Some cold spots are always felt in the same place while others seem to appear and disappear at different locations.”
Thorne’s accounts of cold spots are gripping, literally so; when her characters encounter them, they feel their chilling presences closing in on their bodies. First, there’s the drop in temperature, then there’s the gripping sensation, next come paralysis and finally their bodies are vulnerable to possession!
Alas, the novel has its shortcomings. Quite often, without warning, the third person narrative slips into a first person perspective. This happens in the middle of paragraphs of all places! Sometimes I found myself at the end of a sentence before realizing that I was reading the character’s thoughts. Italics go a long way! Perhaps this is a formatting issue; maybe the italics disappeared when the original file was converted to an e-file. Even so, it would have been helpful if the phrases that represented thought had their own lines.
All in all, this a good book. One Thorne down, once Cross to go! I’m not sure if Alistair Cross has written a haunted house book. I might just have to bite the bullet and “read outside the house”.