Horror is weird. I have a hard time finding stuff I like when I seek it out. It’s like finding a sweetheart. You have to stop looking so hard and just see what gravitates to you. How books gravitate is a bibliomystery, but gravitate they do. Sometimes they appear on a stoop by a FREE sign, or catch my eye in the library or book store. Or you read about a new-to-you novel enough times on enough sites that at last you relent. Once we move I really want to build a Little Free Library that looks like a haunted house and filling with great horror.
I couldn’t resist this one. It looked so good. Judge a book entirely by its cover and title and you will likely suffer the consequences. The summary sounded a little convoluted but that cover…I liked it a lot.
Ramsey Campbell is a prolific English horror author. He’s written more than 35 novels and he’s still going. Ghosts Know is the first of his novels I’ve picked up, but his name is a common sight on Best Of horror lists.
Grahm Wilde is a radio talk show host nudged to be more provocative by his station’s new owners. Every day has a new inane theme to drive his call-in show – obliterating obesity, being blind for a day – and things are going okay. His job feeds his enormous ego, which his producer/girlfriend doesn’t seem to mind. Then a world-renowned psychic comes to town to help find a missing girl and Grahm’s world starts spinning.
It’s clear Grahm keeps secrets from the few people in his life. I don’t recall how the library categorized this, but right away it felt more mystery than horror.
So the psychic comes to town and Grahm cannot resist calling BS on him and setting out to prove his talk of ghosts and psychic abilities is not legitimate. The issue hijacks his show until the psychic himself finally calls in and before Grahm knows it he’s loosely linked to the missing girl.
If the plotting is starting to sound convenient, I agree. My interest began to wane when the story shifted its focus from the murder mystery and psychic media personality to Grahm’s fumbles. Again and again it’s his misinterpretation of a person or situation bites him, thereby forwarding the plot in a most bumbling way.
Being arbitrarily implicated in a murder carries some weight with the investigators. Grahm is being watched and the closer he’s watched, the more suspicious his behavior. He’s already an obsessive person, but now everything he does comes from a place of loathing for this psychic. Every time he tries to clear his name, he makes the situation worse. So much so that I started thinking this was a brilliant novel about a killer in denial. Maybe it is. I’m not telling.
The probablem is the story doesn’t keep you guessing. I was always a few steps ahead, annoyed at Grahm’s obtuseness. Unfortunately this combined with one-dimensional characters made for a bland read. The side characters felt like placeholders – insert girlfriend here, annoying co-worker here, antagonist there, bad boss here – they needed flaws or desires of their own to make them more compelling.
Campbell is touted as one of England’s best horror writers. This story was not for me, but I’ll try another one by this author because the writing has a fun, pulpy style I like.