The House of Lost Souls by F.G. Cottam (Thomas Dunne Books, 2009, 352pp.)
Eager to help his girlfriend conduct research for her dissertation on an obscure female photographer, journalist Paul Seaton visits the Fischer House, one of his subject’s old haunts, on the Isle of Wight. His findings are unexpected: turns out the Fischer House is haunted. No wonder, since it used to be the cavorting grounds for a Satanic cult, as well as the site of an unspeakable crime. After barely surviving his encounter with the house’s ghostly inhabitants, Seaton swears never to return. Ten years later, however, he learns that the lives of four young women depend on him revisiting the place. The author tries to maintain a sense of mystery by presenting events in a non-chronological order, but this method instead leaves the reader confused. The storyline meanders through a series of forgettable events and people until it tumbles to a halt with its anticlimactic excuse for an ending. To the novel’s credit, it has some genuinely creepy moments and elements of intrigue that spur the reader onward in hopes that the story will only get better. It doesn’t. If the term “well fleshed-out” signifies a character that is fully developed, then Cottam’s characters are positively skeletal. They lack substance and remain strangers to the reader until the bitter end. Recommended for those who don't mind a slow-moving, creepy read.
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