Review: Help For The Haunted

HelpForTheHauntedHelp For The Haunted by John Searles
Mystery/Crime Fiction
ISBN: 9780060779634
William Morrow (September 17, 2013)

FTC Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher

Sylvie Mason’s parents have an unusual occupation—helping “haunted souls” find peace. After receiving a strange phone call one winter’s night, they leave the house and are later murdered in an old church in a horrifying act of violence.

A year later, Sylvie is living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened to their parents. Now, the inquisitive teenager pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night—and to the truth about her family’s past and the secrets that have haunted them for years.


There are many who are haunted, and not all of them from actual ghosts. We are haunted by the past and by inner demons be they real or imagined; this is the crux of the story here.

The book opens with a terrifying experience, told by a reliable narrator. Or is she? Sylvie is young, uncertain, and living in circumstances no child should have to deal with. Her memories are cloudy, so her story is only as solid as they are.

When the alleged killer comes up with an alibi that is sure to set him free, Sylvie is forced to question what really happened the night her parents were murdered. Her sister Rose, is someone she should be able to lean on, but one of those demons in Sylvie’s past is her sister and her part in their parents death.

Their relationship, and the one each had with their parents are part of the dark path Sylvie must explore on her way to finding out the truth. It’s a twisted tale that’s for sure, and at times it will have you wondering how Sylvie is so mature and together for someone who’s been through so much at such a young age.

She has a strong inner faith that she herself doesn’t discover until later, which makes her character easier to believe. It’s worth the wait, so keep reading and don’t fault her for holding herself so together when most of us would have lost it.

It’s also a coming of age story and could be considered a young adult novel, but on the older end. The writing and the characterizations make it a great read for anyone. The protagonist is a teenager, and so is her sister, but the book will not disappoint an adult reader and, in fact, will be hard to put down.

As for the mystery aspect of it. I was a little disappointed. It’s kind of a Catch-22 really. You don’t want it so easy you guess who it is, but when you finally do, you want it to be someone who had a larger part of the plot or side plot. Just my opinion. It wasn’t a huge disappointment, because this is more about the journey rather than the destination.

At 368 pages, this is a quicker read than you think. So be prepared. It’s one of those, “Bookmark? I don’t need no stinking bookmark. Now go away, I’M READING.” kinda books.


John Searles is the author of the best-selling novels Boy Still Missing and Strange But True. John appears regularly as a book critic on NBC’s Today Show and has also appeared on CBS’s The Early Show, Live! With Regis & Kelly and CNN to discuss his favorite book selections. His essays have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Daily Beast and other national publications. He lives in New York City.

Email Facebook Twitter Tumblr Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Posterous Reddit