Monday 25 February 2013

Book Review: The Silence by Sarah Rayne

The Silence
by Sarah Rayne
Severn House Publishing
5 Stars
Library copy reviewed


Stilter House, set in a remote part of the Derbyshire Peaks, is said to stand on haunted ground. Once there was a much older property there – a house in which the notorious Isobel Acton committed a vicious crime. But antiques dealer Nell West only knows the house as her dead husband’s childhood home, and is happy to value the contents.

In Oxford, Nell’s lover, Michael Flint is warned that Nell and her small daughter, Beth, must not go to Stilter House. ‘Because Esmond is still there…’

Soon after Nell and Beth arrive, Nell hears a piano being played somewhere in the house. But the music room is closed up, the piano is locked, and the key is missing. And clues left by earlier occupants suggest the music has been heard before…

As Nell and Michael are pulled deeper into Stilter House’s dark past, it becomes horrifingly clear that not only is the music bound up with Esmond, it is also tangled with Isobel’s macabre fate.


This is the third book in the Nell West/Michael Flint ghost series, even though Nell has a hard time believing in ghosts, and I loved it just as much as the other two. Although this is classed as horror, it's not in a gory sense. More in a scared out of your wits sense at things that go bump in the night, and in this case play eerie music that haunts the house and anyone who inhabits it. I had to read something else before I went to bed, something not so scary.

I have a soft spot for old-fashioned ghost stories, which I think this is. At first we don't know anything about the ghosts (for there are more than one) but gradually over the course of the book we find out about Stilter House's past and its past residents. What I loved and what is lacking in a lot of books in the genre, is that we find out things at the same time as the character's do. The reader is more involved that way I think than if they knew things beforehand that the characters didn't.

The writing is brilliant, it draws you in from the very first page and doesn't let up until the last page is turned. I devoured the book in two days, I needed to know what happened and the secrets just kept on coming. While Nell and Michael find out things from letters and deeds, it might have seemed a bit contrived, but here it worked and all the loose ends were tied up very satisfactorily.

Like with nearly all of Ms. Rayne's books, old buildings play a significant part and Stilter House almost becomes a character in its own right, the setting is so vividly drawn. You can almost imagine seeing the house yourself, or its spectral inhabitants.

An excellent read for those looking for an old-fashioned ghost story with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing right to the end.

Reviewed by Annette Gisby

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