Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Published: January 2012
Genre: young adult, gothic, horror
After Michael’s parents die, he is invited to stay with his guardian in a desolate country house. He begins to suspect something is not quite right on the day he arrives when he spots a mysterious woman out in the frozen mists. But little can prepare him for the solitude of the house itself.
On the day of his mother’s funeral, Michael’s family lawyer offers him a new life to live under the guardianship of the man his father defended in the war. Sir Stephen is a wealthy man and eager to take in Michael as a ward, and Michael, with nothing to his name, cannot refuse. But the journey to Hawton Mere proves to only be a precursor for what’s to come at the manor. He spots a woman in the mist, terrified, wet, and screaming — but no one else can see her. As he steps foot in the manor, stranger things begin to take hold, and each night is filled with chilling haunts.
The elder Michael recalls his visit to Hawton Mere and the strange Christmas he spent there. This epistolary beginning and ending to the book was reminiscent of Susan Hill’s Woman in Black — the reader knows no matter what the narrator encounters the narrator will live, but will clearly be haunted by it. Although not as spooky as the previous ghost stories I’ve read, I can easily see why the older Michael would still be disturbed. The creepy, massive house; the mad and deeply disturbed guardian; strange noises, creaking floors, and turning knobs; and the dripping woman from the mist looming around the moat.
The language recalls the Victorian writing style easily, and I was left quite impressed. It’s difficult to emulate that language without it sounding forced or cheesy. Priestly also threw in some classic gothic elements, like the woman in all white, a nightgown, wild among the marshes, the setting as the marshes, childhood traumas, burning manors, and everyone somehow connected to one another. Overall, it was a good, quick read.