A debut thriller focuses on a legendary haunted house in London.
Readers are told at the outset that the house at 50 Berkeley Square has a reputation for being haunted. It has also been the site of “a number of grizzly deaths.” One of those deaths occurs in the present day when a young woman named Maria Holden winds up leaping from the building. Maria’s death draws the attention of a man in his 20s named Jim Cartwright. Jim works in the accounts department at the London International Gazette, though his dream is to become a reporter. He manages to take quite a few pictures of the horrendous scene with his iPhone before fleeing into the night and making a commitment to investigate 50 Berkeley Square. Jim’s probe is interwoven with macabre scenes from the house’s past. There is, for instance, a man in 1789 who goes mad and has to be confined to the attic. And in 1840, an aristocrat named Sir Robert Warboys accepts a foolish wager requiring him to spend a night in the house. But the pressing issue is Jim and his mission to get to the bottom of what’s happening at the infamous landmark. Will his curiosity lead him to become one of the house’s victims? In order to answer that question, the plot explores many incidents, some of which are more exciting than others. McCran’s setup to Sir Robert’s bet is a lengthy journey and includes the hefty statement that “Sir Robert poisoned the air with a contaminating decadence that crushed the spirit of those who really did not like him!” But while aspects of the house’s history sometimes slow the tale down, they are incorporated in such a way as to make readers feel that they, like Jim, are discovering bits and pieces of an enthralling and bizarre past. After all, 50 Berkeley Square is a real London address with a connection to spirits. But even readers familiar with the dwelling should find that there is much captivating material to uncover here. Those who think a story based on an old house can’t include sex, drugs, and a glimpse at a futuristic London will, by the end, need to reconsider their assumptions.
While portions of this tale are overly detailed, supernatural surprises abound.