The Lingering by SJI Holliday Orenda Books
Married couple Jack and Ali Gardiner move to a self-sufficient commune in the English Fens, desperate for fresh start. The local village is known for the witches who once resided there and Rosalind House, where the commune has been established, is a former psychiatric home, with a disturbing history. When Jack and Ali arrive, a chain of unexpected and unexplained events is set off, and it becomes clear that they are not all that they seem. As the residents become twitchy, and the villagers suspicious, events from the past come back to haunt them, and someone is seeking retribution… At once an unnerving locked-room mystery, a chilling thriller and a dark and superbly wrought ghost story, The Lingering is an exceptionally plotted, terrifying and tantalisingly twisted novel by one of the most exciting authors in the genre.
The Lingering is what I can only describe as an eerie, tangled web of intrigue and tension, that had me hooked from the very first page.
The Rosalind House Commune provided the perfect setting for Holliday’s eclectic mix of individuals and the sinister events that unfolded. Told from the point of view of three of its main protagonists, Ali, Angela and Smeaton we saw the story from all sides,
Ali, a psychiatric nurse, along with husband Jack are the newcomers, the ones who altered the dynamics of the commune, who ruffled feathers and changed. Their reasons for joining were hidden, hints dropped in here and there, menacing and slightly sinister and Ali in particular, was a woman I didn’t like, whose intentions were not neccessarily good.
Her husband Jack, came across as weak, totally under the control of his wife Ali,yet what had he done that was so bad, what was he hiding?
Angela, was so innocent, so sweet and naive, totally obsessed by the history of the house and its supernatural feel. You knew she wanted a friend, one to share her obsession and Ali was perfect so she thought, but things are not always what they seem as Angela began to discover. To me, Angela was the only truly innocent guilt free character, the only one who didn’t come along with a past, she was the one with a conscience, with morals who truly wanted what was right.
Smeaton was the leader, the founder of the commune, with his vision of light and dark, of peace and living in harmony.
He took people at face value, believed we all deserved a second chance, but got more than he bargained for with Ali and Jack.
For me, the best character in The Lingering had to be the house, its past as an asylum so apt for the ensuing events that unfolded. I loved Holliday’s descriptions of the long corridors, the abandoned rooms full of old equipment, the creaking floorboards and the distinct awareness of old patients ‘lingering’. The inclusion of Dr Henry Baldock’s journal entries interspersed the main body of the narrative, providing the chilling history, that somehow leaked into the present.
It was the mingling of past and present that gave the story a chilling and menacing feel. You could sense Ali and Jack’s resolve to start again slowly ebb away, and the more I began to understand them as individuals and their relationship the more I came to dislike them, to resent their presence and actions. Holliday was brilliant at portraying the change in dynamics, the effects the couple had on those surrounding them and in particular, Angela.
You could see Smeaton struggle with maintaining the communes equilibrium, incapable of making the right decisions, until matters are taken out of his control.
The pervading theme throughout may have been about a humans capacity to exert control over another but it was much more about the devastating consequences when that control disappears. I can’t say I felt sorry for the characters concerned or their actions but it made for superb storytelling, that was hard to tear myself away from.
The narrative was brilliant throughout, and the author really did get to the very core of her three protagonists, bringing out the best and worst in human nature.
Having never read any of Holliday’s previous works I was hugely impressed and look forward to reading more!
I would like to thank Orenda Books for a copy of The Lingering to read and review and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday is a pharmaceutical statistician by day and a crime and horror fan by night. Her short stories have been published in many places and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize with her story ‘Home from Home’, which was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in spring 2017. She is the bestselling author of the creepy and claustrophobic Banktoun trilogy (Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly) featuring the much loved Sergeant Davie Gray, and the festive serial killer thriller The Deaths of December. Her latest psychological thriller is modern gothic with more than a hint of the supernatural, inspired by her fascination and fear of ghosts.
You can follow Susi on Twitter @SJIHolliday or visit her website: sjiholliday.com