This is the second Hammer novel I’ve encountered and is a vast improvement on Jeanette Winterson’s The Daylight Gate, which is an immense relief, and means that I’ll be actively seeking out more Hammer tales. Sophie Hannah writes very tense psychological thrillers based firmly in real life, so it was interesting to read a spooky twist on her normal genre. The story is told by Louise, who is in a not particularly happy marriage, and is missing her young son, who has been packed off to a boarding school on the basis that he’s a talented member of its prestigious choir. Louise is stressed out and a nuisance neighbour – nicknamed Mr Fahrenheit after his choice of song – is driving her crazy with his loud music. No one is prepared to help her, and in desperation she decides to leave her house and rent a property in a quiet, communal private estate. But the music follows her – and what seemed like a particularly vicious torment from her neighbour, the sound of young boys singing choral songs – takes on a sinister new resonance. As Louise starts to lose her grip, it seems that her son is in danger, and only she can save him. Is she crazy, or is there really a ghost calling out a warning?
This was a gripping read and very effective in getting inside Louise’s head and showing the effects of sleep deprivation and depression. Louise isn’t always a likeable character, but this worked well for me in keeping me invested in her story – I wanted to know if she was telling the truth or not. The storyline is taut and the twist in the tale genuinely shocking; both attributes of Hannah’s writing which translate well to the horror genre. The length is just about right too – any more would have been stretching credulity, but it’s easy to read in one sitting to get the full creepy effect. It’s definitely a good Hammer ghost story, and a good modern gothic tale. Rating: ***
Hammer, 2013, ISBN 9780099580027