A clever, concise and original debut about life, loss and love.
Annie Colville sees dead people. They see her too, and often they want to talk. These encounters aren’t exotic or even particularly scary, just wearisome and taxing. The ghosts are concerned with banal affairs, trying to tie up loose ends before moving on for good. Given England’s vast history, the dead abound, running the gamut from Roman infantrymen to Victorian-era domestic help to the gay bloke taken out several hours ago by his jealous lover. The one characteristic they invariably share is the chocolate-brown hue of their clothing. Annie’s sixth sense didn’t make her the most popular girl in school. At home, her mother is unnerved by the whole medium thing and keeps their big, empty house filled with a rotating cast of foreign-exchange students and unsavory paramours. At university, things finally seem to take a turn for the better when Annie meets and marries Evan Bees, a secretive Ph.D. doing research in the archaeology department. Then Evan mysteriously vanishes, and her life comes unglued. If he’s dead, why doesn’t he come back and let her know what happened? Over the next seven years, the maximum amount of time before Evan can be legally declared dead and Annie must officially get on with her life, her mother is killed and Annie effectively withdraws from society around her. Holing up like a hermit in a series of impermanent residences, including the church where she holds weekly séances, she surfaces to solve murder mysteries and search for the father she never knew. Told by a chorus of narrators—some living, some dead—the story emerges gradually. Slavin’s prose is measured and confident: “I don’t think there is happiness. I think that is something cheap and plastic that they sell from cereal boxes.”
A ghost story that transcends the genre.