Hannah is determined to start a new life after her failed marriage, and so moves to Edinburgh and begins a job as a guide to the spooky tourist attraction, Henderson Close. She loves it; the tales she recites, the character she plays, and the disquiet she brings to her guests. All is not as it seems however, as Hannah and her two colleagues soon experience strange occurrences they can’t explain.
(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)
I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I thank Flame Tree Press for giving me the opportunity.
I decided upon this particular title for the Women in Horror Month readathon (Ladies of Horror Fiction), and I can honestly say I experienced a powerful sense of déjà vu throughout. Having previously read Wrath of the Ancients by Cavendish last year, I couldn’t help but compare the two as they both shared similar aspects; one of them being how the paranormal element was approached in general. I mentioned in my other review that the full-blown, in-your-face strategy doesn’t entirely work for me – I don’t find tension in the constant assault of ghostly happenings. Call it desensitisation if you will, but the lack of subtlety gets to me to the point I’m neither surprised nor excited when the entity decides to strike again in yet another excessive manner. It’s why I don’t necessarily consider novels like this horror, but that’s just me.
That said, the writing truly depicted the grim atmosphere of 1800’s Edinburgh. Cavendish didn’t gloss over the ugliness of day-to-day life in Old Town; she painted a vivid picture that I couldn’t help but get sucked into. I liked the chapters that went back in time and highlighted the lives of those underprivileged. History, especially one as bleak as this one, can add a lot of substance. I even found myself researching Mary King’s Close, probably the most comparable to the fictionalised Henderson Close, and I was, and still am, fascinated by it. I’d throw my money at that tour if I was going to Scotland anytime soon. It’s a great thing when a book piques my curiosity in such a way.
As far as the characters went, I was unable to fully relate to any of them. There was little room to get to know them, or the extent of their relationships, because there was minimal down-time from all that was going on. At times they didn’t seem like real people, but instead devices to continue along events at a quickened pace.
Working up to a climax is expected with every story, but here it was rather lacklustre. I had a difficult time in understanding the confusing way in which everything supposedly tied together. Why were Hannah, George and Mairead specifically targeted and connected? Did it even offer solid answers, or mere hints? It came across as vague, perhaps even messy; certainly not as coherent as I would have liked. Whilst the mystery that presented itself with Miss Carmichael’s killer – the whodunit conundrum – had my mind busy right up until the end, those distractions in the form of sub-plots got in the way. Sometimes less is more, and I feel that relates a lot to this book.
In conclusion: The Haunting of Henderson Close is a busy novel, filled with questions and obscure answers. I favoured the atmosphere – Cavendish is a pro when it comes to setting the mood – however I quickly became overwhelmed at the many, and often irrelevant, twists and turns.
Henderson Close. The very mention of the name sent shivers down the spines of most of the woman’s aquaintances. They couldn’t understand why she did this. Helping those too feckless, in their eyes, to help themselves.
© Red Lace 2019