Best Book of the Week!
The Haunting of Maddy Clare has been on my reading list for a while. I’ve finally read it, and my first reaction is to immediately look for another book by Simone St. James. It’s not often I encounter a good ghost story. This one is really good.
It’s just after World War I, and Sarah Piper has been living a safe but impoverished and lonely life in London taking temporary secretarial jobs, when her agency sends her to Alastair Gellis. Gellis has an unusual request. He is a wealthy young man who can afford to turn his interests into employment, and his interest is in ghosts.
Alastair’s regular assistant is away, and he has been summoned to the site of a haunting. Sarah’s job is to assist him in recording evidence of a ghost.
Maddy and Alastair travel to Falmouth House and an interview with Mrs. Clare, an elderly woman. She explains that Maddy came to her doorstep years ago as a child. She had been beaten and was barely dressed and covered with mud. She could hardly speak. The Clares took her in and tried to find her people, with no success. She was obviously of the servant class, so they employed her as a maid. She was with them for several years, always frightened and never leaving the house. Then one day she hanged herself in the barn.
Maddy haunts the barn, and Mrs. Clare wants Alastair to get her to leave. She already tried an exorcism, with terrible results. But Mrs. Clare says that Maddy hated men, which is why she asked Alastair to bring a woman.
Sarah learns she is expected to go into the barn accompanied only by a wire recorder and a camera. She finds the experience terrifying. Although she does not see Maddy, Maddy plants images in her mind and asks Sarah to find someone. What she wants is not clear, but Sarah decides to continue.
Shortly thereafter, Alastair’s partner Matthew Ryder arrives. Although he is badly scarred from the war, Sarah is immediately attracted to him. Matthew, on the other hand, thinks Sarah is too fragile for the work and should be dismissed. In the meantime, Sarah has sensed a threatening presence in the village.
This novel drags you in from its first sentences. It also tells a deliciously creepy yet heart-rending story about why Maddy is haunting the barn. If you like ghost stories and enjoy some romance in your historical fiction as well, you’ll like this novel.