A House Of Ghosts by W.C. Ryan
Winter 1917. As the First World War enters its most brutal phase, back home in England, everyone is seeking answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives.
At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon coast, Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to contact his two sons who were lost in the conflict. But as his guests begin to arrive, it gradually becomes clear that each has something they would rather keep hidden. Then, when a storm descends on the island, the guests will find themselves trapped. Soon one of their number will die.
For Blackwater Abbey is haunted in more ways than one . . .
A House Of Ghosts is pure perfection!
It has several themes that I absolutely adore and some that strike at my heart. It covers a multitude of genre’s it is literary, historical with a slight occult theme also. It really is 100% worth your investment in the beautiful hardback edition. *See images below*
The novel centres around several characters, mostly of the upper class and privileged of society. But as we know from history, this alone did not absolve you from the battle lines of The Great War. The novel is set in the winter of 1917 and you can fully appreciate the psychological impact of ww1 on several of the characters.
This struck very personal to me, as my great-grandfather fought in ww1 and came back having received a severe head injury. Eventually, he took his own life years later. I guess we will never truly know if it was the head injury, the psychological trauma of a mixture of both. But all I do know is he took his life via slitting his own throat and my grandfather was the one to find him at just 10yrs old. His death would leave a substantial impact on one of the greatest men, I’ve even known, my Grandad Alan.
Back to the novel itself, the central characters are Cpt Robert Donovan and Kate Cartwright. When they are summoned to Blackwater Abbey to take part in a séance to summon the dead of ww1. They have no idea, they’ll end up becoming amateur detectives themselves. The characterisation of these two is phenomenal and they work brilliantly together. What we are yet to discover, is that Kate has a gift of her own. . .
‘Any supposed contact with the dead is either the work of charlatans or some kind of group psychological disorder’ – Kate Cartwright
We learn more about each individual character present at Blackwater Abbey. Their ties to the estate and their loss of loved ones in ww1. Kate for example has lost her own brother and despite her reservations, she is desperate for some kind of communication or confirmation of his death.
‘The problem with corruption among the English upper classes wasn’t that it existed but thatg it wasn’t dealth with firmly and publicly’ – C
Blackwater Abbey is located on Blackwater island as island rumoured to be full of ghosts and the perfect location for a weekend of spiritualism and séances. That is until the stormy weather cuts the group off from access and contact with the mainland. . .
‘In a house of ghosts, the living await, their certain fate’
Eventually we are introduced to the two eccentric characters, that have been acquired to carry out the seances. Madame Freda and Count Dmitri Orlov. The séance will require 12 people and equal numbers of men and women, which requires two unwilling servants to join their number.
‘Spirits from the other side, join us’ Count Orlov
For me personally, this novel has it all. A haunted island, superstition, wartime secrets and trauma. Kate and Donovan make the perfect crime solving pair and the novel strongly reminded me of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.
***images of Hardback edition***
William Ryan ~ W.C. Ryan