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Help for the Haunted: A Novel Audible – Unabridged

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Editorial Reviews

It begins with a call one snowy February night. Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation: helping "haunted souls" find peace. And yet something in Sylvie senses that this call is different from the others, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church's red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep, only to wake to the sound of gunfire.

As the story weaves back and forth through the years leading up to that night and the months following, the ever-inquisitive Sylvie searches for answers and uncovers secrets that have haunted her family for years.

Capturing the vivid eeriness of Stephen King's works and the quirky tenderness of John Irving's novels, Help for the Haunted is told in the captivating voice of a young heroine who is determined to discover the truth about what happened on that winter night.

©2013 John Searles; (P)2013 HarperCollinsPublishers

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 86 people found the following review helpful By D. O'Brien on 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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74 of 86 people found the following review helpful By dizzyweasel VINE VOICE on 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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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Robin Lee TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 22, 2013
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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