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Help for the Haunted: A Novel (P.S.) [Kindle Edition]

John Searles
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (477 customer reviews)

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Book Description

John Searles’s Help for the Haunted is an unforgettable story of a most unusual family, their deep secrets, their harrowing tragedy, and ultimately, a daughter’s discovery of a dark and unexpected mystery.

Sylvie Mason’s parents have an unusual occupation—helping “haunted souls” find peace. After receiving a strange phone call one winter’s night, they leave the house and are later murdered in an old church in a horrifying act of violence.

A year later, Sylvie is living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened to their parents. Now, the inquisitive teenager pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night—and to the truth about her family’s past and the secrets that have haunted them for years.

Capturing the vivid eeriness of Stephen King’s works with the compelling quirkiness of John Irving’s beloved novels, Help for the Haunted is that rare story that brings to life a richly imagined and wholly original world.



Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Author One-on-One: Gillian Flynn and John Searles

Gillian FlynnJohn Searles

Gillian Flynn is the author of Sharp Objects, Dark Places and the #1 New York Times best-selling novel Gone Girl. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Brett Nolan, and a rather giant cat named Roy.

Gillian Flynn: Writers imbue their characters with a little bit of themselves. Obviously, Sylvie Mason is very different from you. How did you find a window into Sylvie?

John Searles: I joke that, deep down, I’m really a teenage girl. Growing up, my dad worked as a cross-country truck-driver and my brother was usually off with his friends, so my mom, my sisters and I spent were always together. As an adult, I become an editor at a women’s magazine. So in a weird way, it was almost easier for me to write from a female perspective.

GF: You’ve talked before about how your sister’s death affected your writing. How so in this book?

JS: After my sister, Shannon, died, my parents divorced and I left for New York to try and become a writer. Our youngest sister, Keri, was left behind. Keri was around the age of Sylvie, and I realized while writing the book that I was channeling her emotions from that time. She was so young to be faced with tragedy, but like Sylvie, had a resilient spirit.

GF: Help for the Haunted has some seriously scary moments and delves into the subculture of haunted souls and paranormalists. What inspired you?

JS: As a kid, I was obsessed with scary things. I made haunted houses in our garage, and when I got my license, I used to load my friends into my station wagon and drive us down a dirt road at night, where I’d try to scare the hell out of them.

Also, I grew up in the same town as the couple who inspired “The Conjuring.” Seeing them in church used to frighten me! Years later, I saw the woman at library event, and I wondered what it would be like if Sylvie’s parents dealt with the paranormal too.

GF: Do you believe in the supernatural?

JS:In Help For the Haunted, Sylvie says, “I do and I don’t believe.” Her mix of feelings is like my own. Logically, I know better, but then life serves up something unexplainable and I can’t help but believe again.

GF: How do you think you’ve grown as a writer over the course of your career?

JS:I’ve always tried to take risks with my writing, but in Help for the Haunted, I took more: writing from a girl’s perspective, combining a murder mystery with a coming of age tale, playing with time and the supernatural. I used to ask my editor, “Is this story too weird?” Thankfully, she always told me to keep going.

GF: Did you begin Help for the Haunted knowing what was going to happen?

JS: All I had was the voice of a girl left in the care of her tough older sister. The rest came in pieces. The old Tudor where the family lives was inspired by an old Tudor where I stayed at Yaddo. The sisters’ job doing surveys was one I had in high school. The doll came when I discovered Raggedy Ann dolls in my mother’s attic. I forgot she once made them until they were staring me in the face—and scaring me!— once more.

GF: Lots of writers have quirky writing habits. What are yours?

JS: Lying on the floor and staring at the ceiling. Push-ups. Runs. Baths. When I go into a writing jag, I don’t change my clothes, shower or shave. While revising Help for the Haunted, I took a break and stumbled into a restaurant. All of New York City and who sits down next to me, but Jay McInerney. He looked at me with my greasy bedhead and rumpled clothes, and I swear he was about to say, “The soup kitchen is down the street.”

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, September 2013: Late one snowy night, Sylvie Mason hears her parents talking on the phone. A little later, they drive with Sylvie to a church, where--as Sylvie sleeps in the car--they are murdered in the church’s basement. The question of who killed Sylvie’s parents is only the first of many mysteries that unfold in John Searles’ Help for the Haunted, an expertly-wrought, coming-of-age story with a healthy dose of creepiness. Searles takes his time introducing us to his characters--Sylvie, her older sister Rose, their demonologist parents, and a handful of suspects--but in a very calibrated way, he doles out chills and family secrets that heighten the tension with each turn of the page. The chills deliver, but the depth of the story is what really sets this book apart. Your parents are never gone from you… Sylvie remembers her father saying. And for some, that’s just another way of being haunted. --Chris Schluep

Product Details

  • File Size: 1597 KB
  • Print Length: 433 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0751555908
  • Publisher: William Morrow; Reprint edition (September 17, 2013)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00BATIK3E
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,570 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A waste of my time November 15, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'm obviously in the minority as far as reviews of this book, but I guess "to each his own". This was one of those rare books that I can't wait to finish just to be done with it. I can't stop a book in the middle because I don't like it; I always have to finish it regardless, but I got very close to closing this one midway. The character of Sylvie is interesting and well developed, but nearly every other character seems forced or shallow, leaving questions hanging overhead, hoping for more depth. I found myself eagerly waiting for something to happen, for some action, for something interesting to push the story along. But it never came. The author holds a couple carrots in front of the reader - the doll, the "possessed" items, among others - but doesn't allow them to reach their full potential.

To be clear, this is not a book about demonology or the occult nor is it remotely chilling. It's a coming of age story about a girl dealing with a very unusual home life and family, and her observations about the world around her. That alone would be a sweet story, but when the author leads you down a road of potential frights and doesn't deliver, it's just plain disappointing. Then there are aspects that don't make sense, like Abigail and the doll. Why were they even in the book? They show up and hang around for a while, then it's as if the author decided he was bored with them and pushes them to the back burner.

The worst part of all is the ending. Not to give it away but the resolution was a cop-out and a rip off. Why introduce a handful of characters if you're going to completely change course at the very end? Ugh.

I wish I could get my money back for this one.
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66 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant, Touching, Transporting September 17, 2013
Format:Hardcover
John Searles' new novel is one of those rare books that envelops, absorbs, and encompasses you completely. From the very first chapter I was completely drawn into the world Searles created: it's 1989, and Sylvie and Rose Mason are the daughters of religious ghost hunters. Very late one winter's night the Masons are called to the town church to meet Rose, who has run off again. Sylvie waits in the car, until a terrible noise urges her inside. Rose isn't there, but a murdered is. Another shot rings out, and Sylvie awakens at the hospital with tinnitus, an orphan. Released into the care of her angry, wild older sister (who has finally turned up), Sylvie must try to come to terms with her new life, her estranged relationship with Rose, the mockery of the town for her parents' questionable livelihood, and all that she never really knew about her parents.

The synopsis and blurbs from other authors suggest that this will be a scary haunted house tale or riveting thriller. These statements are somewhat misleading. There is certainly an undercurrent of menace running through the novel. The Masons are involved in very mysterious activities, giving lectures on spirit activity and meeting with supposedly haunted people. They're loosely based on Ed and Lorraine Warren, ghost hunters involved in many supernatural investigations throughout the 70s and 80s. The occult museum in the basement and haunted doll locked in a case are borrowed from the Warrens. The gothic elements of the story add a spooky tone throughout, but this is where the `ghost story' plotline ends.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Author, John Searles wrote an excellent, very wicked, murder/thriller and from Chapter one I was hooked..The vivid imagery had me lost in this fictious, "Ghost Hunters'" type world...At times I actually found it to be frightening, not so much with the supernatural but, what was going on behind closed doors..Of course, once you start reading the book and you find out what parents do for a living makes it dysfunctional to begin with..Perfect depiction of what it's like as children to have to grow up in an environment with fanatical ideology...The paranormal, religion, and demonic beliefs blended so realistically in this story that it kept you on edge all the way to the unbelievable, twisted ending..It shocked and made me feel angry..

Great in-depth characterization of the main players...Especially, of the daughters: sweet, intelligent, good girl Sylvie Mason and rebellious, hateful, angst teenager, Rose Mason..The story had a very intricate, complicated plot that you didn't know what was real or not...Then add the eerie, artifacts to the basement and for a minute I thought I was watching the 2013 film, "The Conjuring"...After seeing that in the theater I almost didn't want to find myself in that place again.This story is completely different after you find out about the basement and what goes on down there..It takes a turn that you don't see coming which makes it thought provoking, very sad and keeps you guessing....

The premise is written above and I not going to repeat it..The Mason's claim to see evil on the outside but why are they blind in their own home...When the father, Sylvester Mason places that ad in the newspaper,"Help For The Haunted" their whole family world will start to disintegrate...They become pariahs in their community..
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read
I liked the insights into her parents' behavior by sylvie, as well as the humanconnections in her life who brought her comfort, like the turkey raiser boy.
Published 2 days ago by Terri Pate
1.0 out of 5 stars Something to read
A lot of the story was confusing. I didn't understand the motives and the ending was out of nowhere. Read more
Published 13 days ago by Mistie Dawn
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully Mysterious
This guy is one heck of a storyteller. I found this book compulsively readable. It was easy to sustain a willing suspension of disbelief. Read more
Published 16 days ago by Francie Nolan
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
I really enjoyed enjoyed boy. Couldnt out it down. Never would off guessed the ending.
Published 25 days ago by MandaMoo
2.0 out of 5 stars A strange story.
I must admit the story was quite different than I normally read, and yet I kept reading it to see how it would end. Read more
Published 25 days ago by elizabeth hoffman
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read. Very interesting perspective
Great read. Very interesting perspective.
Published 1 month ago by Capria2003
3.0 out of 5 stars kind of slow.
The Book was slow after the first few chapters. Started to lose interest after that. Did not care for ending.
Published 1 month ago by FELICIA WILSON
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended!
Sylvie is a young girl who's lost both her parents to violence. She's living in their house, under the care of her older sister, and trying to make sense of her life. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Rebecca Mugridge
5.0 out of 5 stars great
This book was great, a it of mystery mixed with family secrets. I really enjoyed it! Will read more of his books for sure.
Published 1 month ago by Lauren flack
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Well-written and kept your attention throughout. Satisfying conclusion.
Published 1 month ago by Denise D. Walker
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More About the Author

John Searles is the author of the best-selling novels Boy Still Missing, Strange But True and Help For The Haunted. John appears frequently as a book critic on NBC's Today Show and has also appeared on CBS's The Early Show, Live! With Regis & Kelly and CNN to discuss his favorite book selections. His essays have been published in the New York Times, Washington Post and other national publications. He lives in New York City.

John's latest novel, Help for the Haunted, won the American Library Association Alex Award and was named a Best Crime Novel of 2013 by the Boston Globe, a Top 10 Suspense Novel of 2013 by Amazon, and a Top 10 Must Read by Entertainment Weekly. The book received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist. Help for the Haunted will be released in paperback on July 15th 2014.

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