Simon Guthrie’s life has changed. Once a master chef with thriving restaurants that people were beating down doors to get into, he’s living alone with only his former wife’s dog Jeremy to keep him company. Gail, the wife he dearly loved, is gone. She died as the result of a tragic car accident. Simon suffered a brain injury from the same mishap, but he’s on the mend and living in a dream home that he had built to his specifications. However, things are not as they appear, and he finds trying to achieve normalcy in the idyllic, deserted setting difficult—what with restless ghosts crying out for help in the middle of the night and all.
This is the intriguing premise of THE GHOST MAN by Michael J. McMann. Overall, I enjoyed the book and the host of characters. It’s well-written and keeps moving at a nice pace, but I did experience some road bumps on the way to the very neat ending. I love good endings so I did appreciate this one. I’ll start with the negatives first.
While the basic grammar was fine, I did find the story littered with “telling” phrases. It really slowed things down and undid some of the drama that could have been heightened without these minor details tripping up the story. For instance (and I’m paraphrasing. This is not a direct quote), “He heard the clock strike midnight as he mounted the stairs,” should have been changed to, “The clock struck midnight as he mounted the stairs.” It’s such a ridiculously small detail, but it makes such a huge difference.
The other problem was that there were huge passages of a veering storyline that could have, and should have, been edited out. I’ll state again that I LOVE backstories and details and prose so that’s not the problem. The problem is that the chunks of information interfered with the novel’s taut atmosphere and produced a laxity that had me skipping over pages. If an author is going to do this, make those passages so compelling that I’ll want to get lost in them. However, if the story is just getting lost, cut them out—no matter how much you love them. The latter seems to be the case here so be forewarned.
The positives? The characters, characters, characters! How refreshing to have a Doris Fowler taking a lead role instead of some impossibly beautiful gamine that appear and fall all over the protagonist in helping solve the mystery. I was taken by this love interest and appreciated how the relationship progressed. Next, the story—it’s a good one! There are plenty of twists and turns, and you’re duly rewarded by the aforementioned stupendous ending. And really, who doesn’t love a good exorcism? Yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ about! Bring on the demon-fighting priests! Get out the pom-poms as you cheer them on.
There are ghosts, cemeteries, murders, axes, psychics, wolves, and a lot more packed into this novel. Oh, and there’s one scene that you just HAVE to read! I don’t do spoilers, but this one involves a very weird rainstorm. It’ll have you diving under the covers and screaming, “NOOOOOO!” as you cover your head. I should mention here, that that scene was so effective because there was no deviating from what was happening. There was just enough descriptive phrasing to make it horrifying and chilling. Mr. McCann got it right on that one.
All in all, I enjoyed THE GHOST MAN. I would recommend it and am looking forward to reading more of his work. I’m only giving it 3.7 stars because of the problems noted above. If those negatives were cleaned up, I would have no problem giving THE GHOST MAN five stars. None.
If you’re looking for a midnight read that has some thrills, chills and very quirky characters, give THE GHOST MAN a try.