The Lingering by S.J.I. Holliday

Review published on November 6, 2018.

This is my first S.J.I. Holliday book but I seem to have most of her back catalogue waiting for me. Based on The Lingering I feel sure I will like them.

Ali and Jack Gardiner, at the start of the book, arrive at a Fenland commune. We know they are running from something but we don’t know what. They meet Smeaton, the man in charge of the commune, and various other residents, including Angela, a young and slightly naive woman with an interest in the supernatural. Angela tries to befriend Ali, but is also wary of her.

The commune has a chequered and sinister past. In the 1500s it was linked to witches and then, in the much more recent past, it had been an asylum. As is often the case, the treatments there were barbaric and led to something happening that comes back, quite literally, to haunt Ali. The local villagers are very suspicious of the newcomers, Ali and Jack, and also of the commune, although the villagers can’t see that they themselves are a closed community too in their own way.

From the very beginning of this book we start to get a feeling about Ali and Jack, that maybe they’re not all they seem to be. I found them to be those characters I love to hate: complex, cunning, yet so very interesting. All the characters are fascinating, in fact, and they make up a whole cast that enthralled me.

I know many reviewers have been genuinely scared by the content of The Lingering. I wasn’t but then nothing has ever made me think ghosts exist. I’m far more scared of what human beings are capable of and those aspects of the story chilled me far more than the ghostly aspects. However, despite my scepticism where ghosts are concerned, those sections were perfectly pitched so that they came across as completely authentic.

The Lingering is a compulsive and intense read, one which I found absolutely compelling. The house’s past, Ali and Jack’s past, Angela’s supernatural investigations, all come together to make this a really inspired story. I love what the author has achieved here, how she has weaved the strands together. It’s a fabulous read.

Nicola Smith, Short Book and Scribes, 5/4

The Lingering by S.J.I. Holliday
Orenda Books 9781912374533 pbk Nov 2018

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