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The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

The Haunting of Maddy Clare is Simone St. James' first novel; it's a ghost story set in 1920's England.  It was a page turner and hard to put down, and it was suspenseful and scary, and there was a ghost, a mystery, and a romance, and I loved it, and no library in Lebanon County has An Inquiry Into Love And Death, St. James' follow up to her debut!  So now I'll have to see if I get it from outside the county.  Her third novel will drop in April 2014.  The Haunting of Maddy Clare is a historical/period drama combined with a ghost story mystery (which basically means, it's right up my alley because ENGLISH PERIOD DRAMA and GHOST STORY) populated by characters each in their own way equally damaged and scarred by tragedy.

1922.  Rural England.  London city girl, Sarah Piper, comes to the English countryside in the employ of the young, handsome and charming Alistaire Gellis.  Gellis, a veteran of World War I, has parlayed a lifelong fascination with ghosts into eeking out a living as a ghost hunter.  He travels England documenting legitimate paranormal manifestations and debunking other supposedly paranormal incidents.  Gellis separates the legitimate paranormal occurrences from those that have no supernatural cause or origins with his trusted assistant, Matthew Ryder, a man left even more scarred both emotionally and physically by his World War I service than Gellis.

Gellis hires on Sarah for the specific case of the ghost of Maddy Clare, a young woman of unknown and tragic origins, who hanged herself in the barn of her kindly employers, the Clares.  Maddy kept to herself in life, never left the Clares' property, and was terrified of men.  Thus, Gellis' need of a woman to communicate with Maddy's ghost who becomes violently agitated and aggressive in any male presence.  Gellis and Sarah arrive in Waringstoke, a small village in the countryside and find themselves none too welcome by the insular villagers who take none too kindly to outsiders, especially outsiders written off as charlatans.  Gellis begins his interviews of Mrs. Clare and her housekeeper, Mrs. Macready, the two women who knew Maddy best and who are now terrorized by the girl's ghost.

In the wake of several bloodcurdling, terrifying encounters with the ghost, Sarah, joined by Gellis' assistant Ryder, begins to realize that there's more to this story than the suicide of a damaged servant girl.  Sarah is certain that just as Maddy's death is rooted in what happened to her the night she showed up on the Clares' doorstep, so is Maddy's haunting.  So Sarah and Ryder begin digging, led by clues given by Maddy's ghost and spurred by the ultimatum from the bitter, angry ghost: find her story, find the men who attacked her, bring her justice or lose Gellis to the ghost of Maddy forever.

Putting the pieces of Maddy's story together is hampered by villagers both hostile and unwilling to share the truth of what happened to Maddy.  When men possibly connected to Maddy's attack in the woods and subsequently her death start disappearing, it's clear Gellis' fate isn't the only one in danger.  Maddy's ghost has become an extremely embittered and rage driven version of the girl as she was in life, hellbent on exacting revenge that is tied directly to the girl's death.

If you're a fan of historical or period pieces, of ghost stories or of mysteries--or all three, I highly recommend you check out this book.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

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