The Best Book I Read This Month: The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

I went to the library on Saturday, looking for short books that would help me make up some ground on my Goodreads Challenge--where I was 10 books behind. I picked up a Stephen King novella, knowing it would be a quick read, and The Haunting of Maddy Clare. I chose The Haunting because it was a) relatively short and b) set in post-World War I England, one of my favorite settings. I read the King novella first and started The Haunting of Maddy Clare Sunday afternoon. It swept me away. I stayed up late Sunday night reading it and made sure I got up early enough Monday morning to finish it before I started work.

My library had the book classified as horror, but I didn't find it all that scary. (Perhaps a tolerance I've developed as a lifelong Stephen King reader?) Yes, there is a ghost--a rather violent one--but the story was more like a mystery, driven by the pursuit of answers to two questions: Who was Maddy Clare? What happened to her?

And Maddy doesn't do the only haunting in the story. World War I is just as vivid a specter, having left both physical and psychological scars on the two male leads, scars that inform their interactions with each other, with Maddy Clare, and with the main character: Sarah Piper.  And, as is fitting for an England where war has decimated the male population, the story is populated by female characters, with the men often playing supporting roles.

Ultimately, it was the interaction among the three "ghost hunters"--Sarah, Alistair, and Matthew--that drew me in, grabbed me, and held my attention. This is certainly not a story for the faint of heart, but Susanna Kearsley's cover blurb was accurate: it was spellbinding.