“What Haunts Me” has an original and fascinating premise. Thirty-three-year-old George Sinclair, a realtor in San Francisco, on recovering from a bout of flu, discovers three things: he can see ghosts who haunt people and make them sick, he can “kill” the ghosts by stabbing them, and the haunted person returns to health when their ghost is killed.
I settled down to see what Margaret Millmore would do with this.
“What Haunts Me” is told as a first-person account in which the narrator, George, addresses the reader directly, saying things like:
“Before we go on, I should tell you a little about me so you know who I am… or was, to be more precise.”
This style reminded me of early twentieth-century ghost stories, with their intimate formality, treating the reader as a confidante and companion on the narrative journey.
As I got a few chapters in, I experienced an increasing gap between the language used to tell the story and the character of the narrator telling it.
The narrator is in his thirties. He’a native of Los Angeles County, a graduate of UC San Diego and has lived and worked in San Francisco for long enough to save to buy his own place, yet the language he uses to describe the people around him seems a better fit for a well-brought-up lady in the early twentieth century than the man he’s supposed to be. Here’s an example of George describing to us what he sees when he enters a bar:
“A few older gentlemen were perched on the bar stools chatting with the bartender, and a couple of younger guys on the other side of the large room playing pool.?
What thirty-something man describes guys drinking in a bar as “a few older gentlemen”?
Then there’s a point where he meets up with the most likely love-interest and we get this:
“I only had on my wrinkled khakis from the night before, and suddenly felt conscious of my naked upper body. Don’t get me wrong, I was a strapping young man, and thought I looked pretty good shirtless. But I could actually feel her staring and it wasn’t a pleasant sensation.”
We know George has been working too hard to have a girlfriend but I hadn’t assumed he was a thirty.three-year-old virgin. Even if he was, what man describes himself as a”strapping young man”?
I kept forgetting George was male and picturing a slightly awkward woman as the main character.
I carried on with the book because I wanted to know what happened. The plot was quite good. There were long-held family secrets, scary bad guys, shadowy organisations and some very threatening demons.
Unfortunately, there was also a lot of, sometimes painfully slow, info-dumping and very little action, unless you count eating and drinking while people drip-feed George the truth about what’s going on.
There is a big battle at the end, which was quite well set up but which lacked the tension and the thrill/panic of being involved in a life and death struggle against the odds.
There wasn’t enough here for me to continue on to the second book in the series.