Help for the Haunted by John Searles

17348985Sylvie Mason leaves her house with her parents one dark, snowy night after a late night call her parents receive asking them to meet with one of their clients or people who have “haunted souls”.  Sylvie’s parents, Rose and Sylvester Mason,  have made it their life to help people troubled by spirits and apparitions and as normal as it is for them to get calls at all hours,  it seemed to Sylvie that there was something different about this particular call.  Rose, Sylvie’s older, rebellious sister is not at home,  when Sylvie and her parents leave the house for the late night meeting.  Following the caller’s instructions, Rose and Sylvester make their way to an old deserted church at the end of town.  As Sylvie sleeps in the car, her parents enter the church to meet Albert Lynch, a father with a very disturbed child that Rose once helped.  Some time later, Sylvie is awakened by the sound of gunshots.  Sylvie never sees her parents alive again.

The narrative goes back and forth between the past, when Sylvie’s parents were alive,  and the present, when Rose, Sylvie’s older, seemingly unloving, mean and sullen sister, is Sylvie’s guardian.  As the book progresses,  it becomes apparent that nothing in the Mason family was as it seemed.   It also becomes apparent that who,  Sylvie said she saw in the church,  may in fact not be true and the call that supposedly came from Albert Lynch,  may not have come from him either.  Why would the police think Sylvie may need to re-think her statement about what she remembers about who she saw in the church the night her parents died and why is it so hard for her to do so?

As I was reading “Help for the Haunted” I was reminded a bit of Stephen King’s early writing because while this is a mystery with some sinister overtones,  at it’s heart it is a coming of age story, a story about loss, loss of a parent, especially a mother  and how that changes everything. Your heart breaks as  Sylvie says “If I keep my eyes closed, I feel her there again. I hear her breath, hear her voice telling me, ‘each of us is born into this life with a light inside us…What’s most important is to never let that light go out,  because when you do, it means you’ve lost your hope.  And hope is what makes the world a beautiful place.'”

When I started this book I thought the title “Help for the Haunted” was referring to  the “spirits” Rose and Sylvester “helped”,  but after reading the book,  I think the title was about helping Sylvie deal with the night that changed her life forever.  Every0ne has things that haunt them, we just need a little help to face them. This was a great read and I would strongly recommend it to people who like authors like John Hart and Wiley Cash.

The Falmouth Memorial Library owns a copy of “Help for the Haunted”.