A review by Steve Cameron
The Haunting of James Hastings by Christopher Ransom: After his wife, Stacey, is killed in a hit and run accident, James Hastings lives alone in a huge, empty house. Unable to let go of her, or her possessions, James drinks a lot to cope with the grief and guilt. He’s a former celebrity double, paid to take much of the heat from the rapper ‘Ghost’, an extremely thinly disguised Eminem. He has people around him who care for him more than he realises. But as the first anniversary of his wife’s passing approaches, he starts receiving mysterious phone calls at the time of her death. Further manifestations occur, until it’s clear that she isn’t prepared to move on either. A young widow, Annette, moves in next door, and soon she is taking on some of Stacey’s character – as well as knowing things only Stacey would know. It isn’t long until James’ world is turned upside down and spirals into violence and madness.
Ransom has been described as the new Stephen King, and I can certainly see what’s meant by that. From the opening pages I was hooked, unable to put the book down. And late one night as I was reading in bed, I felt a physical shiver at the first ghostly occurrence. It isn’t long before there are hints that this is more than just a traditional ghost story. And by the mid-point of the novel, it’s clear that there are psychological aspects at play as well.
Interesting, richly developed characters flesh out a vividly painted world that switches between urban Los Angeles and an isolated and deserted gated community. The last few chapters become rather confusing, much like a psychedelic trip into madness, and there were definitely some loose ends that I felt were left untied. And even though I must confess to still being puzzled as to what actually occurred in the ending, it’s good that I care enough to want to know more. It’s been a week since I finished it, and it’s still with me – and to me that’s the sign of a good read.
This book is ripe not only for a sequel, but also for a film treatment, and I’ll definitely be searching out Ransom’s debut, The Birthing House. A modern reworking of a ghost story that promises a bright future for a young and talented writer.
This review was previously published in Dark Matter issue 2, January 2011, and predated on this website to reflect the original publication date.