A paranormal team’s investigation into spirits in Maryland exposes nefarious deeds that come with a human threat in this suspense novel.
When the Frederick County Landmarks Foundation suspects “something” is wrong with one of its historical buildings, the Dulany Paranormal Team takes the case. The 200-year-old home, Beacon’s Way, is a hub of recent unexplained events, including a mysterious leak in the ceiling and a heavy armoire that seemingly moves on its own. Team member and photographer Kayla Dunn snaps some pictures of the house and is shaken by what appears to be a specter staring at her. Investigating with her colleagues Parker Troxell and Henry Marfoh, Kayla looks into other local hauntings, all eventually linked by trompe l’oeil paintings, works with three-dimensional optical illusions. At the same time, there’s an equally unnerving human element, from a note that warns the foundation’s vice president to steer clear of Beacon’s Way to someone directly threatening Parker. There’s also the body that Kayla stumbles on—a Jane Doe and an indisputable homicide. Unfortunately, more killings follow, and the possible presence of phantoms may not be the greatest danger for Frederick County or the Dulany Team. Allen’s (Lies Beneath Ellicott City, 2015, etc.) novel is an engaging fusion of ghost story and thriller. The focus is primarily on the mystery: Humans are a definite menace but their objective is unclear, while the existence of spirits is initially vague. The intermittent merging of the two investigations—the Dulany Team’s and Detective Nick Nucci working the murders—further deepens the mystery with probable connections. The author grounds the paranormal sleuths with signs of their expertise, like relevant terminology: apport (an object appearing through spiritual means) versus asport (an object that a ghost takes or moves). But along with the realism, there are wonderful instances of spookiness; when Kayla carefully peruses her photos of Beacon’s Way, she spots a previously unseen individual who had been hiding.
Taut, riveting story in which apparitions and corporeal baddies remain comparably terrifying.