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Friday 14 December 2018

‘The Lingering’ S.J.I. Holliday

Published by Orenda Books,
15 November 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-912374-53-3

As the days draw in and the nights become longer and the mist creeps across the common at the bottom of my garden, there is nothing better than curling up with a creepy thriller featuring an old asylum in the middle of the bleak Cambridgeshire Fens. And Susi Holliday’s The Lingering fits the bill extremely well.

The book opens (after an unsettling prologue) with Jack and Ali Gardiner arriving at a spiritual commune hoping for a fresh start. The nearby village is known for the witches that lived there in the past and Rosalind House, the home of the commune, is a former abandoned psychiatric hospital. From the beginning, it is clear Jack and Ali have secrets to hide, and their arrival triggers a set of unexplained and malevolent events. As the residents of Rosalind House become twitchy and suspicious of one another, events from the past come back to haunt them, and someone – or something – is out for revenge.

Rosalind House has a tragic past, and its secrets, lies and persecutions are soaked in the very fabric of the building. Add in the desolation of the Fen landscape and a village that has a history of witchcraft, and we have the perfect setting for The Lingering, and one that hints at the supernatural.

The characters are well drawn, and their development is excellent. Ali and Jack are rounded and believable, and I did like the third main character, the naïve Angela – one of the commune’s residents who is determined to prove there is some kind of ghostly presence in Rosalind House. The plot, too, sizzles, and Susi Holliday builds the story brick-by-brick, sweeping us along and taking us in completely unexpected directions.

The Lingering – with its fabulously evocative cover – is a thoroughly modern ghost story, also involving a serial killer, pharmaceutical experiments and the journal of a long-dead doctor. And I will say, I am never going to look at my bath in the same way again!
Reviewer: Mary-Jane Riley

SJI Holliday grew up in East Lothian. A life-long fan of crime and horror, her short stories have been published in various places and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham competition.  Her third book The Damselfly was published in February 2017.

Mary-Jane Riley wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter, when she was eight. When she grew up she had to earn a living and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades. Then, in true journalistic style, she decided not to let the facts get in the way of a good story and got creative. She wrote for women's magazines and small presses. She formed WriteOutLoud with two writer friends to help charities get their message across using their life stories. Now she is writing crime thrillers drawing on her experiences in journalism. Her third book set in East Anglia and featuring investigative journalist Alex.  Dark Waters, was published by Harper Collins/Killer Reads in March 2018.

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