review by Maryom
In the run up to Halloween publisher Seren Books have been holding a read-a-long of Tiffany Murray's Sugar Hall - one of the few ghost/horror stories that actually sent shivers down my spine and at times terrified me - so I had to join in! I find a lot of scary stories miss their mark with me - either falling flat or turning to comedy in their desperate attempts to frighten - Sugar Hall didn't.
I thought re-reading a ghost story might be a bit like going back to a crime novel, you know what will happen, all the plot twists, how it ends ...... so how did it go? Well, actually I found it more terrifying than before ....
Lilia Sugar and her two children have moved from London to her late husband's family home Sugar Hall. It's a place full of secrets, built with money from slave and sugar trade, and it's haunted by one of those slaves - a young boy who saw his mother buried alive, and was then killed by his owner.
On the very first page we meet the ghost - Lilia's son Dieter is fleeing from something he's seen; he knows it's a ghost, the reader knows it's a ghost but his mother and sister dismiss it as a figment of imagination or an attention-grabbing story. Dieter is lonely, he decides to make friends with the ghost, and, even at the first reading, the reader just knows no good will come of it. Dieter is both attracted and repelled by this slave boy; knows at heart that he should resist him but can't. First time through, I was hooked, wondering what would happen next; this time, knowing what would happen, I was horrified. I just wanted to shake his mother and say "Look at what's happening around you! Do something while you can!" But of course, I couldn't, and the whole ghastly tale reeled out again like a slow-motion car crash.
In some ways it seemed there was more time to 'look around' at the rest of the story, to see the other characters as more than just supporting the main plot. Lilia's story - her flight from Germany just before world war two, her relationships with the men in her life, her barely acknowledged dislike of her daughter - grabbed me more, because I was happy to be distracted from Dieter's growing dependence on the ghost.
It certainly lived up to the horror I'd felt first time .....maybe next year I'll read it again....
Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Seren Books
Genre - adult horror ghost story