First in the supernatural thriller series about detective Annie Graham, Helen Phifer has produced a harrowing, haunting and horrifying piece of entertainment. Step over The Ghost House threshold and enjoy the perfect Halloween Week nightcap.

 

“Alice, I’m coming to find you ready or not.”

Not much scares police officer Annie Graham. But as a recent victim of domestic violence she has been placed on leave to recover from a serious head injury. Needing to stay away from home once out of hospital, Annie agrees to housesit her brother, Ben’s, farmhouse. In close proximity to an Abbey and a crumbling Victorian mansion, Manor House, its location on the edge of Abbey Wood offers the perfect place for her ‘bruised mind’ to find peace after her ordeal. Ben is key keeper for the boarded up mansion so detective Annie naturally sets off to explore. But stepping past the brass goblin knocker, a door to the past is opened that feels like her own.

‘There was no such thing as ghosts.’

Entering the oak-panelled entrance of the Ghost House, large enough to host a party, a sense of déjà-vû confuses Annie. Dark, full of shadows and with the blurry white shape of a woman in an upstairs window, it leaves her distinctly uneasy. Racing from the house, Annie’s troubles begin. For in her bag she has taken a dusty, black, leather diary, whose first entry in 1886 was written by fifteen year old Alice Hughes. Long since dead, Alice is trying to communicate with the living about what really happened in Manor House. And Annie is the one she has chosen.

‘Where would she run to? The cellar was vast and he knew every nook and cranny.’

Absorbed by Alice’s diary, a familiar feeling draws Annie in. Black thoughts which have been locked away at the back of her mind start to open. Just what is her connection with the past? Why does reading about Edward, former Master of the House, send temperatures around her plummeting for no apparent reason? What is it about the cellar door in the Ghost House she finds so unsettling? And how can she shake off the irrational thoughts and visions that will not leave her?

“It’s not the dead that can harm you. It’s the living you have to watch out for.”

While Annie is recovering, her friend and colleague Jake is embroiled in a search for a missing teenager. Headed up by Detective Sergeant Will Ashworth, the case of Jenna White has rocked the normally quiet town. Jenna’s favourite place to go is the Abbey, yet no trace of her there can be found. When another girl goes missing Will realises he has a potential serial killer on his hands.  But just what do the girls’ disappearance have to do with Annie? And who is responsible for the shadow in the barn that watches her every move?

‘To write is a precious gift that should be used if one has been fortunate enough to be blessed with it.’

Full marks to author Helen Phifer for creating Annie Graham, a fabulous female lead. A real woman who eats butter (not plastic margarine), racks up hundreds in overdue library fines, and blushes at the mention of detective Will without revealing too much of herself. Receiving his own narrative, Will’s investigation hones in as his relationship with Annie slowly begins to sow its seed for future books. What joy this is for the reader!

Well-conceived and with a driving rhythm author Helen spurs you on to discover the truth about The Ghost House. Who is the abductor and have the missing girls been spared? And how Annie can rid herself of the supernatural force that has her in its grip? Linking well to the infamous legend of Jack the Ripper, gruesome scenes should be expected. Coupled with this, the historical description of the Manor House and the people that lived and worked there is immersive. Solid wooden furniture, the heady perfume of flowers, the bustle of the kitchen and the scullery – all add to the atmosphere. Conversely present day involves loading dishwashers, spraying Chanel No 5 and cooking from packets. The two worlds blend well as the author moves between time with ease.

‘Annie was convinced that deep down she already knew the whole story but couldn’t unearth it from the depths of her mind.’

A pacy fusion of past and present he Ghost House will stay with you as you lock up for the night. With plenty of thrills, the blush of romance and a supernatural hook we will certainly welcome Annie Graham into our houses again.

Brilliant, electrifying!