A slow starter, this book grew on me.
The Haunting of Highdown Hall by Shani Struthers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I enjoyed this story, and since it's set in Sussex, the county right next door to my own, I enjoyed the localness of it all as well. The only reason I didn't give this book 5 stars is that it deviates into explanations quite a lot: there's far too much of the author telling me what she knows about the local area and not just what, as the reader, I need to know.
The book starts well - a flashback to Christmas Eve 1958 and an English movie star, Cynthia Hart, celebrating her 31st birthday. She's a diva, she's a flirt, she drives men wild - and she dies that night of a heart attack. However, when we arrive back in the 21st Century, the first few pages dive into a totally unnecessary background information dump that could have been achieved in the first scene with the modern-day characters, Ruby Davis and her band of psychics.
Despite this detour, the start had intrigued me enough that I kept reading, and, gradually Ruby began to grow on me. This is a book that sounds written from the heart. Shani wants to tell me everything about Lewes that both she and Ruby clearly adore - it's just that most of the time I didn't need to know all that detail and I did end up skipping whole paragraphs that I began to recognise as the 'local colour' ones.
I actually ended up really enjoying this story. The characters are interesting and convincing, the plot, which is concerned with finding out why Cynthia is still in the manor she called home, had some twists that kept me reading, and I read the whole second half of the book in one sitting. I liked it enough to go and buy the second book in the series.
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