I picked up Ghost Lover at a used Goodwill where I frequently salivate over the used book section. The back cover blurb looked intriguing, especially since I was in such a ghost story mood. It comes to my mind that ghost stories are said to be overdone and all too common, when really there is a wealth of ideas there still open for exploration. ‘Ghost Lover’ is a book that takes the usual theme and adds a new twist, kind of kin to Barbara Michael’s mystery works.
The plot, while it may seem basic and melodramatic from the description, actually branches off into multiple directions, adding different layers to the mystery the further the story unravels. It’s hard to know until the end who was responsible for what murder, what will be found (and who), and what the reactions will be. This tickling of my brain was one of the things that kept me reading – everybody loves a good mystery.
Characterization is firm and concrete. I was able to draw up sympathy for key characters, particularly Judd and Finley. Joel’s wife, Susan, seemed a bit off though. She wasn’t paper thin, but her actions and reactions didn’t seem to ring true. If my husband was losing it to that degree, I think I would have acted differently – and fast! Her motivations and emotions weren’t explored in depth after her part was over which, I guess, wouldn’t be necessary with how the plot was progressing. Would have been nice to see, though, as it would have made her stand out more.
The beginning jumps into action immediately, with the first chapter being more of a prologue-type opening, instantly delving into tragedy, confusion, and anguish. The rest of the beginning draws of the pain created in the first few pages, spreading it out, feeding it for an exciting and strange middle, to be led down the road to a stunning, bittersweet ending. The last few pages were short for my tastes, almost like the author was suddenly in a hurry. I would have enjoyed at least a page or two more so that *I* could have more closure, but I guess that, like in Judd’s life, closure wasn’t meant to be found for me here either.
Despite the abrupt ending, the pacing is solid, decorated only with scenes that need to be there, all of them working together to keep the plot sailing smoothly and without bumps along the way. I don’t always comment on atmosphere in book reviews as, frankly, I don’t see the point of having a designated spot in a review for this with every novel. In this case the atmosphere stands out a little, obviously rich in confusion and desperation. The plight of all characters intrigued me, even if this wasn’t necessarily an all around character-type book. Clausen did do an admirable job of getting me attached to and feeling for Judd, though, which is the most important one to latch on to.
His writing style is unique and stylish. His descriptive phrases are almost poetic, but not water word-logged. Dialogue is genuine, action is told in a rapid enough pace, scenes are well structured, and the attention that is needed to be lent to action is.
As far as ghost stories go, this one isn’t violent or even creepy. It’s more like one of those sorrowful tales you can’t help but keep reading about. After all, horror is about tragedy just as much as it is about blood, guts, and destruction.
I wasn’t sure what to rate this one at first. It does have flaws, like some of the plot being left a little obscure for my tastes in solving the mystery on my own, and the wife’s character, but it also kept me reading and looking forward to picking it back up again when I was forced by life to lay it down. That must enjoyment earns it a high rating alone.
For an old fashioned ghost story, or to dive into the great horror novel atmosphere of the 80’s (which greatly changed both horror films and books), give this one a try. Tales like this are simply haunting.