Book: “The Haunting of Beatrix Greene” by Rachel Hawkins, Ash Parsons, and Vicky Alvear Shecter.
Publishing Info: Serial Box, October 2020/January 2021 (this is expanded upon in the review)
Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.
Book Description: Beatrix Greene has made a name for herself in Victorian England as a reputable spiritual medium, but she’s a fraud: even she knows ghosts aren’t real. But when she’s offered a lucrative job by James Walker—a scientist notorious for discrediting pretenders like her—Beatrix takes the risk of a lifetime. If her séance at the infamously haunted Ashbury Manor fools him, she will finally have true financial freedom. If she fails, her secret will become her public shame.
But James has his own dark secrets, and he believes only a true medium can put them to rest. When Beatrix’s séance awakens her real gift—and with it, a vengeful spirit—James finds that the answers he seeks are more dangerous than he could have imagined. Together, with a group of supernatural sleuths, Beatrix and James race to settle the ghost’s unrest before it strikes— or else they might not make it out of the haunted manor alive.
New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins, along with Ash Parsons and Vicky Alvear Shecter, weaves darkness, death, and a hint of desire into this suspenseful mystery for fans of Sherlock Holmes and Crimson Peak.
Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!
We are wrapping up our Horrorpalooza reads, and Halloween is this weekend. First and foremost, Happy Halloween everyone! What better way to end the spooky reading season than with a good old fashioned haunted house story? “The Haunting of Beatrix Greene” is that, but with some modern lens tweaks and a unique storytelling style that I’m still kind of trying to wrap my head around. But if a fraudulent medium and an old manor on the English moors are involved, I’m going to be on board regardless of stylistic choices.
Since I’ve been noting the format, that’s the aspect of the story I’ll address first. “The Haunting of Beatrix Greene” is published by Serial Box, an organization that releases books and audiobooks in weekly episodes, each episode written by different authors. Our authors for this book are Rachel Hawkins, Ash Parsons, and Vicky Alvear Shecter. It feels like it’s a Round Robin writing exercise, which is definitely unique and not something that I’ve really encountered outside of fan fiction. I think that when you are experiencing it in this way, that is in weekly episodes like a TV show or podcast, that is a pretty cool thing. But in this format where it’s just a book that collects them all together but still calls them episodes as opposed to chapters, it feels a little strange. That is a bit exacerbated by the fact that the actual complete book isn’t going to be coming out until January, but the episodes have started dropping on Serial Box now, something that I wasn’t totally aware of when I requested this book. I think that this is confusing, frankly, and the ‘one chapter a week’ format may not appeal to all. If you want to do the whole book in one go, January will be when your time comes, according to Amazon.
But, there was a lot that I liked about this story in terms of the bare bones of the haunted house theme. The biggest stand out for me is Beatrix herself, a woman who is making a life as a medium during the time in England when Spiritualism was having its first big boom. Beatrix doesn’t actually believe in ghosts, and uses the kinds of tricks and strategies that many of those charlatan spiritualists used, like cold reading and ringers. But we also get to see that Beatrix isn’t doing this because she’s conniving or sociopathic. Rather, she’s trying to survive as a single woman during a time where options are limited. When she is invited by skeptical scientist (and charlatan exposer) James Walker to conduct a seance at an old manor called Ashbury Hall, she feels a need to prove herself to a seemingly arrogant scientist, and to protect her reputation so she can keep making a living. I loved Beatrix, and felt that she was nuanced and complicated. James, too, had some complexities and nuance to his character, and didn’t just serve as an antagonist foil who is ultimately going to be a love interest to Beatrix. He has his own personal stake in wanting to have her come to Ashbury Manor.
And yes, there is a romance between them, and yes, it feels a little unrealistic given that this story takes place in such a short time AND they find themselves in a very haunted and dangerous house. But the chemistry and banter between Beatrix and James sizzles, so I was very easy to forgive it. Along with the romance, of course, is a ghost story, and I thought that that part of it was also pretty well done. We have some fun nods to the genre, with believers and unbelievers getting in way too deep, and a house with a tragic history that goes back far beyond the time that the first brick was laid. The horror aspects have some moments of genuine scares and a little bit of gore, but I would also say that this is a friendlier read for horror lite people who may not want to be SUPER scared. A lot is crammed into this short tale (clocking in at less than two hundred pages), but I feel like Hawkins, Parsons, and Shecter are able to pull it all together and never make it feel rushed or haphazard. And going back to the format for just a moment, even though the chapters alternate between different authors, their styles meld together well enough that it always felt like a unified narrative, which isn’t always easy to do.
“The Haunting of Beatrix Greene” is fun and just a little bit spooky, and a nice addition to the many other ghostly Gothic tales that came before it.
And that wraps up Horrorpalooza 2020! I hope that you all have a safe and happy Halloween!
Rating 7: A spooky and entertaining Gothic tale of (semi)terror, “The Haunting of Beatrix Greene” has some good scares and some good characters, but the format seems unnecessary and the way it’s released may be confusing to some people.