I’ll be up front that The Silence of Ghosts was a bit of a disappointment and it’s a shame because I was so excited to read it. I love a good haunted house story and a couple of bloggers and booktubers I follow gave it decent reviews. The story is extremely slow and meanders a lot, and I had to really push myself to finish.
The book is told through a series of diary entries left behind by Dominic, a disabled World War II veteran, and his experiences with the supernatural hauntings at Hallinhag House. The strange occurrences seem benign at first but quickly become chilling once the implications of what is happening starts to sink in. Descriptions of the hauntings flow so naturally in the diary entries that it makes the story feel like it could be real, a definite high point for the book.
“Because somebody’s living in this house. I heard them earlier. Whispering. When I turned round there was no one there. But there was still whispering.”
The first thing that I felt was a mistake about this book was the prologue, where a major character death is spoiled immediately, leaving no mystery to the plot and no chance of emotional investment that readers might have had in this character. This tactic of building dread for the eventual outcome can work in some books by shifting the focus from the who to the how, but I don’t feel that the plot was well constructed enough to pull this off.
After the first couple of hauntings the plot slows to a crawl, spending more time dawdling over Dominic’s romance with his nurse, Rose. All of the business about Dominic’s family and overbearing parents feel unnecessary to the story and just added more fluff. After a while even the hauntings began to feel tiring with no clear progression of the story. It started to just feel like loosely connected events that lead nowhere with an extremely anti-climatic ending.
In the end, I think this book had some potential and could have been a good read if there was more mystery and scares, less focus on the romance, and a little more development of the main story. The book felt more like a strange paranormal romance rather than an actual horror story and it just didn’t work out for me.
Those who live in silence hear them best . . .
Dominic Lancaster hoped to prove himself to his family by excelling in the Navy during World War II. Instead he is wounded while serving as a gunner, and loses his leg. Still recovering from his wounds and the trauma of his amputation when the Blitz begins, Dominic finds himself shuffled off to the countryside by his family, along with his partially deaf sister, Octavia. The crumbling family estate on the shores of Ullswater is an old, much-neglected place that doesn’t seem to promise much in the way of happiness or recovery.
Something more than a friendship begins to flourish between Dominic and his nurse Rose in the late autumn of that English countryside, as he struggles to come to terms with his new life as an amputee. Another thing that seems to be flourishing is Octavia’s hearing.
As winter descends, sinister forces seem to be materializing around Octavia, who is hearing voices of children. After seeing things that no one else can see and hearing things that no one else can hear, Octavia is afflicted with a sickness that cannot be explained. With Octavia’s help, Dominic sets out to find the truth behind the voices that have haunted his sister. In doing so, he uncovers an even older, darker evil that threatens not only Octavia, but Rose and himself.