Written by Sally Spedding
Sparkling Books Ltd, 2012
When Jason Robbins arrives at the eerie Heron House in deepest Carmarthenshire for a writing course, he soon meets its two weird servants who seem to exercise a sinister power over their scheming employer, Monty Flynn. Another newcomer is Helen Jenkins, a cook, to whom Jason is instantly attracted. Together they discover what dangers really lurk behind those ivy-clad walls; how the terrible post-war past bleeds into the present when the tormented soul of the young woman haunting them will stop at nothing to have her story told. But is the ghost's version of events to be trusted? And at what cost to Jason and Helen when they attempt to find out the truth?
Sally Spedding’s Cold Remains has been called a “noir-ish thriller” -- a darkly atmospheric mystery novel with supernatural elements. And I suppose, strictly speaking, that’s a fair description; I agree it’s a very dark tale. And I generally love that. But something about the book just kept repelling me, and I don’t think it was spookiness. (It also wasn’t the fact that every other sentence seemed to be about Helen's menstrual cycle -- that was pretty repellent, too, but it was there for a reason.)
For one thing, there were at least two storylines going on, in two different time periods, and a host of characters to keep track of, in each. That’s fairly standard for novels these days, I know -- and I know it shouldn’t bother me by now, but in this case it did. Also, it seemed to me that Spedding never really decided if she was writing a mystery or a supernatural thriller. Most of the time, that supernatural part of the book felt really tacked-on.
A lot of the action was confusing, too -- jumping around in time and from place to place. And throughout the book, I had trouble understanding exactly what motivated the characters, and that kept me from caring much about them. I suppose that might have been part of the mystery -- not giving too much away before the big reveal at the end. But it just didn’t work for me.
Note: This review refers to an electronic edition of Cold Remains which was furnished free of charge by the publisher through NetGalley.com. No other compensation was received.