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The Ghost Writerby John Harwood
Synopses & Reviews
A tantalizing tale of family secrets hidden in spine-tingling ghost stories — that have started to come true.
Growing up in a small Australian town, Gerard Freeman loves to hear his mother talk about her idyllic childhood in an English country manor. But she swears that she will never return to England, and refuses to tell him what happened to her family, though she is clearly terrified of some invisible yet ever-present threat. One hot afternoon, he waits until she is napping, then creeps into her bedroom to break open the drawer that's always locked, the one that he hopes holds all her secrets....
Twenty years later, Gerard has not left home — he works as a librarian — but he lives for just two things: his English penfriend Alice, for whom he yearns with all his heart, and the ghost story he found in his mother's drawer all those years ago. Written by his great-grandmother Viola, it hints at the terrible crime that haunted his mother, and, finally, destroyed her. And as Viola's chilling tales lead him to London, Gerard realizes that the stories might hold the key to finding Alice as well as unveiling his family's mystery — or are they leading him directly to the untimely death they seem to foretell?
Harwood's deliciously clever debut never loosens its grip on us as it moves from Gerard's present-day detective work to the macabre world of Viola's supernatural stories, from Australia to London, from the safety of books to the terror of a ghost story come alive. Astonishingly assured, compulsively readable, The Ghost Writer shows us just how dangerous family skeletons — and stories — can be.
"Harwood's debut is a haunting literary gothic, a slow-building suspense thriller. Lyrical, labrynthine. An atmospheric paranormal thriller with many surprises." Booklist
"The Ghost Writer, is a first-class creeper, a literary ghost story in the Victorian tradition." Boston Globe
"A compelling ghost story and an auspicious debut." Denver Post
"Intricate and engrossing. Harwood raises the ghost of the Victorian ghost story. One ghoulishly absorbing read. B+." Entertainment Weekly
"Compulsively readable. A wonderful debut, evoking a century's worth of family history, by a multitalented and artistically ambidextrous newcomer." Kirkus
"Spooky and gripping, a chilling tale sure to make your spine shiver on even the hottest summer day." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"A creepy literary mystery. A terrific debut, very accomplished and assured." Murder Ink Bookstore Newsletter
"The Ghost Writer is a grand Victorian tale in which Gerard becomes increasingly certain something wicked his way comes." New York Daily News
"Combines suspense that keeps readers up with a literary voice that allows them to respect themselves in the morning." Publishers Weekly
"Sly nods to spooky literary spinsters — James' Miss Jessel, Dickens's Miss Havisham — set the tone for this confident debut." Publishers Weekly
"By the last page, all loose ends have been tied up, but the uncanny still clings to everything." Laura Miller, Salon.com
"You can't help being dazzled by Harwood's inventiveness, especially his sure-footed mastery of prose style. [An] entertainingly accomplished first novel." San Jose Mercury News
"As a mystery, The Ghost Writer is irresistible, pushing all the genre's gothic buttons and casting a convincingly Dickensian pall." The Guardian
"An elegant homage to the Victorian ghost story tradition. Like Dickens's The Pickwick Papers, Harwood makes your flesh creep." The Times of London
"Harwood has written a smart, stylish and mesmerizing book." Washington Post Book World
"For those of us who love the tradition of literary high Victorian Gothic - Henry James, M.R. James, Mr. Dickens himself! - "The Ghost Writer is a feast, but you don't need any prior knowledge of these other writers to savor the pure pleasure of reading this book. The fissures in the text that let in a gust of modernity - computers, emails - just lift it into real, pure horror. It is also mordantly funny! That is sheer genius - to make me terrified and laughing all at once. A tour de force." - Patricia Duncker, author of "Seven Tales of Sex and Death
"Harwood has an extraordinary knack of feeling his way into the style, vocabulary and characteristic preoccupations of the great ghost story writers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. He never puts a foot wrong. . . . The skill and verve of these stories are undeniable and irresistible. . . . Harwood is an expert at pacing his narrative, generating suspense and conjuring up things that go bump in the night." - "Sydney Morning Herald
In this tantalizing tale of Victorian ghost stories and family secrets, timid, solitary librarian Gerard Freeman lives for just two things: his elusive pen pal Alice and a story he found hidden in his mother's drawer years ago. Written by his great-grandmother Viola, it hints at his mother's role in a sinister crime. As he discovers more of Viola's chilling tales, he realizes that they might hold the key to finding Alice and unveiling his family's mystery — or will they bring him the untimely death they seem to foretell?
Harwood's astonishing, assured debut shows us just how dangerous family skeletons — and stories — can be.
THE GHOST STORY COMES ALIVE IN A SPELLBINDING FIRST NOVEL
"Gerard is a timid librarian whose only real friend is his pen pal, a beautiful Englishwoman named Alice, who is, sadly, confined to a wheelchair after a horrific car accident. They've been sending passionate letters to each other since they were 13, but they've never actually met. In fact, Alice refuses to let Gerard come to visit her. Does she have some connection to Gerard's creepy, semi-insane mom, who's also English? And to those Victorian horror tales that Gerard keeps stumbling across? What's she hiding, anyway? The answers are yes, yes, and wait and see. . . ." - Time Magazine
"It begins, as good ghost stories should, not in the dark, not in a haunted house, but in a stuffy and silent room scented with perfume and mothballs . . . We are drawn compulsively into his web of threads." — Ruth Rendell, Sunday Times (London)
"A first-class creeper." --The Boston Globe
"Intricate and engrossing. . . . One ghoulishly absorbing read." - Entertainment Weekly
"Harwood switches styles with astonishing finesse: V.H.'s Victorian ghost stories are flawless in tone." — San Jose Mercury News
"A chilling tale sure to make your spine shiver on even the hottest summer day." --Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
JOHN HARWOOD grew up in Hobart, Australia, and studied literature and philosophy at the universities of Tasmania and Cambridge. He has published biography, political journalism, satire, and poetry.
About the Author
John Harwood divides his time between London and Victor Harbor, a small town on the coast of South Australia. He has published works of biography, political journalism, satire, and poetry. The Ghost Writer is his first novel.
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