THE LINGERING by S.J.I. Holliday
Orenda Books; 9/30/18 (E-book), 11/15/18 (UK Paperback)
CBTB Rating: 4.5/5
The Verdict: atmospheric, supernatural suspense
The year isn’t over yet, but if I were to name one trend that has surprised me most in my personal 2018 reading list, it would have to be how much I’ve enjoyed the supernatural suspense novels I’ve tried this year. Earlier this year, I read Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s brilliant Icelandic ghost story-meets-mystery I REMEMBER YOU; I recently devoured Sharon Bolton’s THE CRAFTSMAN, a procedural with some otherworldly undercurrents; and I similarly loved S.J.I. Holliday’s forthcoming THE LINGERING, an atmospheric psychological thriller set in a building with a dark past life. What do these books have in common? Each of the aforementioned titles balances a very human, earthly mystery with otherworldly, supernatural touches—and the resulting stories are made all the more gripping for this blend. If you are strictly anti-supernatural in your crime fiction (which I totally understand!), today’s featured title will be one you’re better off skipping. If, however, you are open to something a little different as you plan your fall reading list, S.J.I. Holliday’s THE LINGERING will make for an addictive, binge-worthy, utterly chilling suspense read. Pick THE LINGERING up on a dark, cold winter’s night, and you will find yourself transported to the mysterious, richly atmospheric world of Rosalind House, a building with a history as dark as those of its residents. Part locked-room mystery, part Gothic suspense, part ghost story, THE LINGERING is one of the most unusual - and chilling - suspense novels you will read this fall.
Married couple Jack and Ali Gardiner move to a self-sufficient commune in the English Fens, desperate for fresh start. The local village is known for the witches who once resided there and Rosalind House, where the commune has been established, is a former psychiatric home, with a disturbing history.
When Jack and Ali arrive, a chain of unexpected and unexplained events is set off, and it becomes clear that they are not all that they seem. As the residents become twitchy, and the villagers suspicious, events from the past come back to haunt them, and someone is seeking retribution…
Show me a book with a psychiatric home setting and I’ll show you a book I simply must read. In S.J.I. Holliday’s THE LINGERING, a former psychiatric home takes center stage, its shrouded history propelling this gripping suspense novel forward. THE LINGERING takes place against the backdrop of Rosalind House, a psychiatric home-turned-commune, now housing a group of individuals looking to escape the stressors of city life. Cinematic in scope and detail, this building becomes a world unto itself; in Holliday’s expert hands, readers will discover that THE LINGERING is as much about getting to know Rosalind House as it is about getting to know the men and women whom it houses. Rosalind House feels ripped out of your favorite Gothic suspense story, replete with a rundown wing no one enters, a grand facade, and plenty of things that go bump in the night.
In the past, Rosalind House served as a controversial psychiatric institution—a place whose track record was marred by alleged abuses against patients residing there. Through enigmatic diary entries left behind by a doctor assessing the hospital’s treatment methods, readers will slowly but surely be given a glimpse into the disturbing goings-on of the hospital… and they will soon begin to realize why it carries with it the dark energy that it does. In the present day, a self-sufficient commune has taken residence in Rosalind House, seeking to turn its grim history into something beautiful and positive. Led by an enigmatic and charismatic man, this commune seeks to bring light back into the building by focusing on the positive and seeking joy and harmony through self-sufficient living. It sounds very nice, doesn’t it? But of course, nothing in a crime novel can stay harmonious for too long, and the arrival of newcomers Jack and Ali is about to disrupt this peaceful paradise—and perhaps bring something darker to the surface, too.
In Jack and Ali, and the many secrets their relationship holds, Holliday masterfully weaves a domestic thriller plotline into her story of supernatural suspense. This very recognizable thread anchors THE LINGERING, keeping at least one part of the story firmly rooted in our world—even while other parts become increasingly tinged by something otherworldly and sinister. When readers meet the couple, Jack and Ali have given up their careers - him as a policeman, her as a nurse - and abandoned their lives in the city for a fresh start at Rosalind House. Jack is plagued by what appears to be PTSD from the traumas of his career, and Ali can no longer handle caring for her ailing husband on her own. The commune, with its built-in support system and promise of worry-free living, seems just the thing to solve the couple’s woes. But as Jack and Ali settle into their new life in Rosalind House, it quickly becomes clear to the reader that not everything is as it seems. There’s something just a bit off about the dynamics between the two, and, somehow, the house seems to know it, too. Readers will be riveted by the gradual unraveling of these two characters, and the ultimate revelations made about the secrets the pair keeps will shock and disturb in equal measure. While I did predict some of the revelations about the pair, it’s not so much the what as the why that makes this piece of the story work so well. Though undeniably taken to extremes for effect, themes of manipulation and coercion are examined effectively through this relationship—and the outcome is utterly frightening and wholly gripping, whether or not you guessed components of the ultimate reveal along the way.
The characters that fill the pages of THE LINGERING spring off the page, but none quite so vibrantly as the character of Angela, a resident of the commune and a self-professed ghost hunter. Angela is a spritely, free-spirited young woman, and she has made it her mission to prove the existence of ghosts in Rosalind House. Thanks to her friendship with the locals in a neighboring village, Angela has heard all the stories about this building; she’s learned of the region’s history with witches, and believes without a shadow of a doubt that there are spirits lingering in Rosalind House, waiting to be seen. Sensing that the arrival of Jack and Ali might present her with a new opportunity to prove the supernatural real once and for all, Angela begins monitoring the newcomers… and what she finds will change her life in ways she never could have imagined. Beyond her genuinely endearing and energetic presence in THE LINGERING, Angela becomes a compelling representation of “otherness” in the story. There are numerous examples throughout THE LINGERING of women who were viewed as “different” by society being ostracized or mistreated, and Angela’s story runs in a kind of gentle parallel to the injustices these women endured. Though Angela does find acceptance among her fellow commune-dwellers, she is always just a bit on the outside—and it is this quality that makes her best equipped to understand the history of Rosalind House and the many spirits it just might hold within its walls. Angela is a wonderful, endearing character, and readers will find themselves emotionally invested in her personal quest.
In THE LINGERING, S.J.I. Holliday has written a gripping and genuinely unique suspense novel with significant cross-genre appeal. Readers of Gothic suspense will love Rosalind House, the story’s richly-drawn central location; fans of supernatural thrillers will find plenty of chills in the ghost story Holliday weaves; those who love domestic thrillers will sink their teeth into the disturbing secrets kept between protagonists Jack and Ali. THE LINGERING is, in many ways, a tricky book to label—but the label isn’t important when the story is this fun to devour. Pick THE LINGERING up to add some genuine chills to your winter reading list.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions my own.
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Orenda Books (15 Nov. 2018)
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