"Some memories linger. (...) It is as though they are inhabited by ghosts, for like ghosts they will not leave us."
In order to rekindle their slagging marriage, Peter and Sarah Clare rent a remote old house in Cornwall. At first, it seems to work. Peter's writing is going great and Sarah is painting near the beautiful cliffs all the time. The couple is growing closer together again. But Sarah doesn't feel comfortable inside the house; she feels an evil presence there and wants to leave. Peter doesn't want any of that though. One day, he finds that Sarah has disappeared. At first, he thinks Sarah has left him and gone back to London, but when strange things are starting to happen, he understands that Petherick House is haunted. He starts investigating the history of the house and what he finds out is absolutely chilling.
"The Vanishment" is a traditional gothic horror story, clearly influenced by the classic short stories of M.R. James and reminiscent of Susan Hill's ghost novels ("The Woman in Black"). No blood and gore here, but more than enough chills that go for the throat. It isn't easy to put an original slant on this kind of story, and the author doesn't completely pull it off this time. He's thrown together lots of clichés: slamming doors and the powerful presence of an evil ghost are of course obligatory in a ghost story, but there's also the history of child abuse, the Exorcist-like convulsions young Rachel is having, the dark revelations about the narrator, the unexplicable choices the characters make... Aycliffe hasn't quite managed to blend them nicely into a coherent whole.
I've read better by Jonathan Aycliffe (be sure to read "Naomi's Room"), but it's still a good novel.
Author: Jonathan Aycliffe
Title: The Vanishment
Publisher: Constable, London
Year: 2014 (orig. 1993)
Number of pages: 232 p.