The Haunted by Niki Valentine

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The Haunted by Niki Valentine

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Category: Horror
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Susmita Chatto
Reviewed by Susmita Chatto
Summary: A second honeymoon that puts a rocky relationship under the spotlight, with shocking consequences.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: October 2011
Publisher: Sphere
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0751545081

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Valentine's novel opens with a sinister tale that has nothing to do with haunted bothys – but everything to do with rotting relationships. Susan and Martin are attempting to have a second honeymoon but the dynamic between them is clearly flawed from the very start. Susan seems to be experiencing feelings of seemingly hysteria-driven love, continually alternating with resentment. The opening scenes are played out in the relative calm of a smart hotel, but the tension and irritations between the couple are painfully clear.

As they begin their journey to the bothy, the claustrophobia of this relationship is played out over wide open spaces that amplify the unpleasantness of the situation. The seeds of the idea that one of them or both of them might be unhinged are clear from their expedition out to the bothy. Valentine does a good job of portraying the volatility of intense relationships; the way just one wrong word can set off a row and how human beings fall into codependent patterns and believe that they can never escape them.

But this of course is a horror novel, and although there is one early initial sinister event, the novel then takes a long time to unravel, with the relationship between them turning ever more ugly and the feeling of groundhog day blending into nightmare is repeated too much. I found myself wondering when we would get to the heart of the situation and feeling that the darker points of their relationship were being laboured.

The novel is set out so that the last part is more action-packed, which is a relief after the 'portrait of a marriage' that dominates the main but it would have been wise to start sowing the seeds for the finale much earlier. While there are certainly parts that bode ill, these are not fleshed out as much as one might hope for in a horror novel.

Valentine has great talent for evoking feelings and her attention to detail also creates the struggle within Susan's head with great panache. The confusion that can arise from being in an intimidating physical situation and the build-up of anxiety and fear are shown with painful accuracy. However, it is hard to be sympathetic towards either of the characters as both are showing their worst characteristics from the start. Susan in particular is hard to warm to as she portrays herself as irrational from so early on.

Overall, though the novel has good points, it could have been even better with some stronger characters and more variety within the writing.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.


All Yours by Claudia Pineiro

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