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Help for the Hauntedby John Searles
Synopses & Reviews
It begins with a call one snowy February night. Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation: helping "haunted souls" find peace. And yet something in Sylvie senses that this call is different from the others, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church's red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep, only to wake to the sound of gunfire.
As the story weaves back and forth through the years leading up to that night and the months following, the ever-inquisitive Sylvie searches for answers and uncovers secrets that have haunted her family for years.
Capturing the vivid eeriness of Stephen King's works and the quirky tenderness of John Irving's novels, Help for the Haunted is told in the captivating voice of a young heroine who is determined to discover the truth about what happened on that winter night.
"Readers of this unsettling coming-of-age story from Searles (Strange but True) may feel the need to whistle past the graveyard by the end. Nothing has been the same for Sylvie Mason since the cold winter's night when her parents went to a deserted church, not in their self-proclaimed capacity as the saviors of haunted souls, but to meet their runaway older daughter, Rose. Left asleep in the car, Sylvie is awakened by the sound of the gunshots that ended her parents' lives. Nearly a year later, her grief is still fresh. Schoolmates taunt her, and though Rose has assumed legal responsibility for Sylvie, the older Mason girl fails to properly feed, clothe, or otherwise nurture her younger sister, all the while behaving erratically. Sylvie continues to lie to the police about Rose's whereabouts that fatal night, even as the trial of a man arrested for the crimes approaches. Her current existence, her parents' 'gifts' and vagabond lifestyle, and strange goings-on in the Masons' basement unfold in nonlinear fashion, keeping the reader on edge while Sylvie bravely uncovers her family's many secrets. Agent: Joanna Pulcini, Joanna Pulcini Literary Management. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Wonderful....A coming of age tale that is poignant and touching...and will scare the living hell out of you. I loved every page of this novel: I loved the sisters and the story and the page-turning mystery. I just may never go downstairs into my basement again.” Chris Bohjalian, bestselling author of Midwives and The Light in the Ruins
“I was completely consumed by Help for the Haunted; I read it in one sitting. I just cant decide what I loved the most: its perfectly pitched teenage narrator; the ghost story that kept me riveted; the thriller that made me say, Oh, just one more chapter.” Jodi Picoult, New York Times-bestselling author of Lone Wolf and The Storyteller
“A quickly paced and boldly rendered ghost story, Searles's dark novel about a young girl haunted by the murder of her parents had me up reading all night. And checking the doors. I found it impossible to put down.” Sara Gruen, bestselling author of Water for Elephants and Ape House
“This is edge-of-your-seat reading of a very high quality, and, be warned, it is seriously spine-tingling.” Robert Goolrick, bestselling author of A Reliable Wife
Searles successfuly jumps back and forth in time to let these stories unfold, sewing clues and strange details along hte way....A somber, well-paced journey, wrapped in a mystery, that will keep readers guessing until the revealing conclusion. Kirkus Reviews
“Searles expertly manages his cleverly conceived plotline as he alternately withholds and doles out key information in tantalizing fashion....Superlative storytelling.” Booklist (starred review)
“A truly creepy, smart psychological thriller that will keep readers turning pages until the very end. Highly recommended.” Library Journal (starred review)
“A rich and tense suspense story that serves up plenty of genuine thrills but also moves the reader with elegant insights into the enigma that is Family.” Khaled Hosseini, bestselling author of And the Mountains Echoed and The Kite Runner
“Disturbingly engrossing.” People
“A poignant story of a family, of parents navigating an odd and dangerous career, of daughters shaken by doubt and loss and grief — and the gulf that widens between them all....A compelling mystery.” Miami Herald
“Involves both classic horror elements (a malevolent rag doll, a stolen diary, a hatchet, a scary basement) and contemporary ones (a prescription for Vicodin). Searles controls the plot with a sure hand and wraps up the situation on Butter Lane in a satisfying and believable way.” New York Newsday
“Searles really cranks up the suspense....A real page-turner.” School Library Journal (starred review)
“[Searles] has crafted a strange, spooky world that is absolutely believable. Sweet, precocious, desperate Sylvie is a memorable young striver in the tradition of Scout Finch, and Help for the Haunted is an exceptional piece of storytelling.” Washington Post
“Moving and elegantly constructed...both a suspenseful page turner and a provocative look at what it means to be haunted.” Columbus Dispatch
“John Searles wrapped a ghost story inside a mystery, and the result is a worthy thriller...Help for the Haunted.s alternating chapters are cleverly split in time to reveal what came before and after a deadly tragedy at the heart of this captivating story.” Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A masterful genre mash-up thats part paranormal thriller, part coming-of-age story, part crime fiction, Searles' eerie novel about a young girl uncovering the mystery of her parents murders builds to a stunning and poignant conclusion.” Entertainment Weekly
“The perfect Halloween read for those with a taste for haunted basements, creepy always-smiling dolls, and weirdly dysfunctional families....Searles brings the torture of adolescence, the scourge of notoriety, and the pain of being young and different vividly to the page.” Boston Globe
“Full of terror, totally compelling, believable, and ghostly chilling....The horror that stocks this page-turner is so adroitly grounded in things ordinary and real that the reader almost suspends disbelief and comes to think that maybe there are malevolent spirits out there.” NPR
“Creepy, disturbing and compelling, with well-drawn characters, this is gothic suspense at its finest.” Statesman Journal (Oregon)
John Searless Help for the Haunted is an unforgettable story of a most unusual family, their deep secrets, their harrowing tragedy, and ultimately, a daughters discovery of a dark and unexpected mystery.
Sylvie Mason's parents have an unusual occupation — helping “haunted souls” find peace. After receiving a strange phone call one winter's night, they leave the house and are later murdered in an old church in a horrifying act of violence.
A year later, Sylvie is living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened to their parents. Now, the inquisitive teenager pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night — and to the truth about her family's past and the secrets that have haunted them for years.
Capturing the vivid eeriness of Stephen King's works with the compelling quirkiness of John Irving's beloved novels, Help for the Haunted is that rare story that brings to life a richly imagined and wholly original world.
About the Author
John Searles is the Deputy Editor of Cosmopolitan where he oversees all book coverage for the magazine. His essays, articles and reviews have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times and other national magazines and newspapers. He lives in New York City.
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