This was one of those novels that is better while reading it than when it is viewed in retrospect. Once I started it, I was quickly hooked, and spent the afternoon at Panera until I had finished it. However, it is only a few days later, and I'm already forgetting the names of most of the characters. Sarah Piper, the novel's narrator, works at a temp agency, and Allistair Gellis, a ghost hunter, hires her as an assistant for a case he is working. Though he already has an assistant, Matthew Ryder, Sarah is necessary because the ghost he is currently investigating does not like men, and the home's owner insists that he can only come investigate if there is a woman present.
While Sarah questions the idea of ghosts, her doubt is swept away almost as soon as she reaches the village and has her first interaction with Maddy. Mrs. Clare had found Maddy when she was about 12, brutally beaten, covered in mud, unable to speak and given her shelter. For some reason, she killed herself after living with Mrs. Clare and her housekeeper for seven years, and now haunts the barn where she hung herself. While Allistair is mostly interested in the manifestation of the ghost, Matthew and Sarah realize they need to know the backstory to truly understand this case, and begin to solve the mystery of where Maddy came from and what happened to her. Maddy connects with Sarah (though this is a frightening thing for Sarah), and gives her clues and visions about what happened to her. The twists and answers are rather obviously choreographed, but the writing was compelling enough for me to wonder if maybe there was an extra twist I didn't see coming (there wasn't), and to wonder when the characters would catch up.
However, I think the beginning of the novel was more interesting, and by the end, the stakes really didn't seem that high - Maddy ends up possessing Allistair, and Matthew and Sarah are in a rush to save him, but something about it just didn't quite seem that compelling or even necessary - I wanted them to solve the mystery for the sake of solving the mystery and helping Maddy, and really didn't care too much about Allistair one way or the other. A large piece of the plot is also devoted to a developing romance between Sarah and Matthew. It's not necessarily the most frightening ghost story told, nor that memorable, but it mostly holds together while reading it. However, in retrospect, there wasn't necessarily that much to it, and it certainly didn't break any new ground. Basically, it's a popcorn movie version of a novel.