The Carrow Haunt by Darcy Coates (2018)
As I read The Carrow Haunt, two classic novels came to mind—And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie and The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. In all honesty, I put this book down about halfway through and let a week go by before picking it up and finishing it. Let me tell you how glad I am I didn’t abandon it. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I don’t normally read books that fall into the horror genre, but I stumbled upon this book through BookBub and decided to take a chance on something a little different. This is the first book I’ve read by Darcy Coates, and I’m adding her to my list of new-to-me authors whose work I want to read more of.
The Carrow Haunt is told through the third-person point of view of Remy, the book’s protagonist. When the story begins, Remy is welcoming a tour group to Carrow House, the most haunted house in the state. We learn that she’s been guiding these tours for about two years, and combined with her natural inquisitiveness, she’s something of an expert on the history of the house. Remy tells us (and her tour group) that the house’s original owners, were murdered by a man named Edgar Porter. Edgar, who bore a striking resemblance to John Carrow, the house’s owner, effectively became him, fooling everyone in the surrounding environs. Edgar reopened Carrow House as a hotel, and in the eight years that followed he murdered at least twenty-nine people, though the actual number is believed to be a lot higher. Thus all the reports of ghost sightings and the house’s superlative moniker. At the end of the tour, Remy is approached by a man named Mark Sulligent. He wants to hire her to assist him in leading a two-week paranormal study of the house. After debating the offer, Remy agrees to help provided that Mark can gain the current owner’s permission. This permission is granted and the book moves into the second act, with Remy and Mark greeting the rest of the party that will stay at the house for the two weeks and study the paranormal activity. Needless to say, all the shenanigans you’d expect from a story revolving around a group of people living in a haunted house to investigate the nature of the paranormal claims ensue. But I won’t spoil those for you.
Coates delivers a strong supporting cast of characters to develop the story, add conflict and tension, and show different sides of our protagonist, Remy. Mark is the money behind the expedition and the reason they all gather at Carrow in the first place. He evades attempts to determine exactly why he is interested in investigating the paranormal activity at Carrow, leading the party and the reader to question his true intentions. Mark also invites Marjorie, a psychic medium, her assistant, Bernard, as well as Taj, a ghost hunter who wants to capture scientific evidence of ghosts and paranormal activity. Marjorie and Taj are in opposition to each other for most of the story, man of science vs. woman of faith, if you will. Remy invites Piers to join them, a retired grandfather who was on the tour that begins the book. Rounding out the team are April, the seventeen-year-old owner of Carrow and her guardian, Lucille. April is enthusiastic about learning all about the paranormal and imagines herself capable of becoming a spiritual medium. Her exuberance is a nice contrast to Remy’s cautious nature, her naïveté opposed to Remy’s more seasoned experience. I have to say that I enjoyed all of the supporting characters and feared for their safety as the story progressed just as much as Remy, their shepherd, did. Coates succeeds in making each character realistic and relatable, and I was invested in all of their fates.
Like I said above, I don’t have a lot of experience with the horror genre, so I have no idea what conventions are present in The Carrow Haunt and which are missing. What I can say is that the setting of the story and the atmospherics all lend themselves nicely to ramping up the tension and the sense of danger threatening the team. Carrow is connected to the mainland by a bridge, and during violent storms the ocean waves sweep over the bridge and wash cars out to sea. Yes, you guessed it. A violent storm blows in during the team’s stay at the house, preventing them from leaving. The story also succeeded in making me as the reader question Remy’s reliability as a narrator (most definitely because of my experience with Jackson’s Hill House) as well as whether or not everyone in the supporting cast could be trusted. I won’t say that the story was scary, necessarily, but it did set me on edge every once in a while, more and more often as the story reached its climax.
If you’re looking for a book that is maybe outside of what you typically read, give The Carrow Haunt a try. I’d also recommend this book to anyone who likes ghost stories or enjoys shows like Ghost Hunters or Paranormal State. And, if you are like me and on a book budget, The Carrow Haunt is available through Kindle Unlimited if you happen to be a subscriber (it’s not available through my local library). With that being said, though, I think the book is not a wasted expense from your book budget. It took me a while to finish The Carrow Haunt but once I got to the end I was completely satisfied.
Have you read The Carrow Haunt? What did you think?