Jonathan Aycliffe - The Silence of Ghosts
"...a haunting tale well told that will propel you to continue to its bizarre conclusion. "
Charles Lancaster is the sole heir to his grandfather's vast estate which includes a hugely successful business importing Port from Portugal as well several properties one of which neither of his grandparents ever mentioned: Hallinhag House. On visiting the house in Ullswater in the Lake District, Charles experiences a supernatural encounter.
Shocked and yet intrigued, Charles reads his grandfather,Dominic Lancaster's diaries from the Second World War and discovers that both Dominic and his younger sister who was profoundly deaf, Octavia were sent to Hallinhag House as a safe haven from the Blitz of London. But Hallinhag House is anything but safe and shelters evil spirits who crossed the boundaries of decency during their depraved lives. Centuries later they are determined not to be thwarted from their despicable desires and their first objective is to recruit Dominic's deaf sister, Octavia who, despite being deaf can hear the voices of the dead calling for her.
It has been over ten years since Aycliffe's last ghostly offering and 'The Silence of Ghosts' is a welcome return of this author. Aycliffe perfectly sets the scene and at times there were certain parts of this novel that felt as though written by M.R. James or Le Fanu. The name Drablow is also mentioned which is not a usual name and is quite synonymous with Hill's 'The Woman in Black'. I like to think this is Aycliffe's way of giving Hill's ghost story a nod of acknowledgement. The apparition of the four ghost children in the study made my skin crawl and for the first time in years made me look around the room to make sure I was quite alone!
Despite opening the tale in the present, the main body of this story is told by Dominic during the end of 1940 to early 1941. I feel the build-up of this story was much more satisfying than the actual ending. The discovery of the secret at Hallinhag House felt anti-climactic and I was slightly perturbed that after all Dominic and Rose's efforts to combat these forces, that the house was simply abandoned and forgotten about. However, Aycliffe does have a final ace up his sleeve. The book finishes back in the present day with Charles Lancaster which is slightly ambiguous and contradictory. Aycliffe's final 'coup de grace' is a recent letter written by Charles. I read that letter several times and Aycliffe's ending swirled around my head for several days. The only conclusion I have come to is that with regards to the Lancaster family; the apple doesn't fall far from the proverbial tree. You will know what I mean once you read the book. This is not this author's best but it certainly has the chill factor and is a haunting tale beautifully told with some hair-raising moments that will propel you towards its bizarre conclusion.
Reviewed by: C.S.