Tuesday, May 11

JJ Lumsden: The Hidden Whisper

A parapsychologist visiting a small town for his grandfather’s funeral is asked to investigate a series of unexplained events at a neighbour’s house. The neighbours, recently advised that their house sits on an ancient Indian burial site (no, really), are attributing the events to the supernatural. And the events certainly demonstrate stereotypical poltergeist phenomena. But why have things started now after over twenty years of habitation, and can it be stopped?
With only a week to get to the bottom of the haunting the parapsychologist throws himself into the case. But the more he investigates, the less likely a paranormal explanation becomes. Are the events really of ghostly origin or are they the work of a much more mundane nuisance? Either way, he will have his work cut out for him to prove the case. Though, needless to say, he manages to do just that.
I strongly suspect (though don’t know for sure) that this is a self published work and so I was a little reticent about reading it. In my experience there is usually good reason why publishing houses reject manuscripts and as a reader I have seen those reasons made flesh in self published works. However, given the niche this story is aimed at, I gave it the benefit of the doubt-after all market forces play their part as well.
What drew me to the work in spite of my misgivings? The inclusion of an extensive reference list (14 pages) and detailed end notes (68 pages). The author is an academic who obviously knows their stuff and is able to present it well. Indeed, I found the end notes to be of greater interest than the story itself. Perhaps, given my suspicions, I was being overly critical as I read, but the story, to me, seemed to be the enthusiastic work of a competent amateur.
It appeared the author wanted to include every aspect of paranormal research they could think of. To that end the story is riddled with expository dialogue (of exceptionally poor quality) the only purpose of which is to introduce subjects that are then addressed in the end notes. This gave the work a disjointed feeling.
The characters are two dimensional and the hero is not a particularly likable (or believable) guy.
There is a decided lack of atmosphere throughout. For example, I got absolutely no sense of unease from the victims of the haunting, let alone fear.
The pacing was off, the plot simplistic and the surprise twist ending flagged so far in advance as to be redundant. Though I did like the ending, even if I saw it coming.
This would be a solid first draft of a story. But it needs a good editing and extensive rewrite before I would recommend it. A great idea poorly executed, skip the story and go straight to the end notes-that’s where the value lies-Lynn.

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