Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Book 23: The House of Lost Souls

This is the second ghost story I've read by F.G. Cottam though this one was an earlier effort.  In some ways the stories have similarities since both deal with things that are haunted as a result of certain satanic rituals in the '20s.  Dark Echo was very good, and displays his maturation as an author, but he didn't have very far to go from The House of Lost Souls which  was also rather good. 
Cottam's novels aren't necessarily super scary but they are creepy, and he is a master at building atmosphere.  The other thing is that they involve following protagonists that have to do a fair amount of research.  I like ghost stories that have a back story, especially when that backstory isn't just hand delivered but requires a bit of work and digging to find, and is slowly parceled out as the story progresses.  In this case, we both do and don't get the answers quickly due to someone telling their history with the house, but fortunately, he doesn't rush that history at all.
Nick Mason, a special operations soldier, has returned home to take care of his younger sister after her breakdown.  She and three fellow students entered Fischer House, and one has killed herself, while the rest seem to be on the verge of imitating her.  After this introduction, the novel shifts to Paul Seaton, an Irish man living a rather spartan life in London.  As it turns out, he too once visited Fischer House, and lived to tell the tale, so he is enlisted by a man from his past to help Nick save his sister and put an old evil to rest.
Once Paul makes contact with Nick, both reveal their previous experiences with the supernatural - Nick had an unexplainable moment in Africa, and Paul tells him the history of Fischer House.  Paul was originally drawn to Fischer House when trying to help his girlfriend finish her thesis on photographer Pandora.  As a journalist, Paul felt he might have luck finding some leads, and though he hits a wall early on, he soon makes headway, though he'll regret that soon enough.
The two men know they must return to the house to end this power, and it is here that the book goes a little crazy.  I think Cottam does a great job developing the story, and setting the atmosphere, and even adding some twists and turns that throw Paul's previous ideas for a loop, but the ending is certainly a bit off the rails.  Of course, I think that is the case in most ghost/horror stories as often things start going all over the place to justify the climax and in that way this one is no different.  I can't entirely say I quite remember or know everything that happened at the end since it was a bit of a blur, but overall I really enjoyed the book.

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