A young girl with an eerie doll, a ghost hunter with a tragic past, and a mother-daughter team of psychics cross paths in this debut horror novel.
As World War II approaches, 7-year-old Affinity Bell lives an isolated life in a Virginia mansion with her father, Taylor, a wealthy weapons manufacturer with “a knack for all things business, and for all things underhanded and treacherous,” and her beautiful but ineffectual mother Monica. An obsessive woodworker, Taylor is determined to turn his own wife into “a honed and polished dowel” by beating her unmercifully, and Affinity seems to retreat into a fantasy world with Mr. Moppet, a doll with strange powers that alternately hurts and protects her—although it ultimately can’t prevent horror from engulfing her life. Three decades later, in 1974, Tanner Dann, a young Californian writing a book about ghosts, arrives in Virginia, seeking to uncover the secrets of Bell House. He enlists the aid of Linda Cookmeyer, an attractive older psychic, with whom he has a romantic spark. Along with Linda’s even more sensitive daughter, Claire, the trio finds that there’s much more evil in Bell House than a simple haunting, and that each of them will be called upon to face their greatest fears and vulnerabilities. Wilson does a skillful job of weaving the complex fabric of his story, setting a captivating tone from the beginning with Affinity’s unnerving blend of innocence and calculation. The leap forward in time to the 1970s is equally well-managed, and the relationship between the pragmatic Linda and the quixotic Tanner provides a degree of grounding to the fantastic narrative. Readers might wish that this aspect of the story were a little better developed, as things falter a bit with the introduction of archetypal supernatural elements. However, Wilson manages to keep the suspense taut to the end, and all the disparate plot threads come together nicely.
A chilling ghost story that sets the innocence of childhood against the horrors of domestic abuse.