I love a good ghost story - unexplained things going bump in the night, floating apparitions, the works. So I was delighted to win a copy of The Gatehouse Haunting by Martyn Chapman.
The whole idea of living inside a gatehouse is charming. I would enjoy spending a week in the house pictured on the front cover of the book.
I wanted to love this book. I really did. The central idea is good, I just felt like this was more of a work in progress than a final product.
First and foremost, I did not accept the reason Ella was in the Gatehouse for a week. Early on we learn that Ella has been released from the hospital after a year due to a mystery illness. She's going to recuperate for alone in the gatehouse while her husband is at work.
The problem (for me) is that this house is in Germany and she doesn't speak any German. Her husband does, but he won't be with her. How relaxing would it be to spend a week alone unable to communicate with others should a need arise? It would have made more sense for her to spend a week with her parents back in England...but then we wouldn't have a story. The reason her husband chose this place is explained in the final pages of the book, but not really to my satisfaction.
We also don't find out until nearly halfway through the book what the mystery illness was. I've known people with this condition and while it can be very serious, a year in the hospital seemed a bit of a stretch -- and there's no real reason why it has to be a year. The story still stands if she was in the hospital for two or three weeks instead.
The next problem I had is the adjective and adverb overload. It's great to be descriptive, but it was just too much for my taste. Ella, an avid reader, settled down with her book and the phrase "adorable words of literature" kinda made me laugh out loud. I love to read, but have never found words to be adorable.
I also struggled with Ella's character. Her husband Anton was a bit of a bastard, so I wanted to like her. She'd been in a somewhat abusive relationship for awhile, so some of her meekness is collateral damage, I get that. But I wanted to see more of a spark in her. Some fight. I think her conversations with her husband were a bit much, too. I think it would have been so much better if he wasn't such an obvious ass. Give him the appearance of caring, let his insults be a little more nuanced. Make the reader wonder if Ella is making mountains out of molehills and you really up the tension.
The ending I have mixed feelings about. There was a surprise I didn't see coming (YAY), but the final scene felt like the end of a Scooby Doo episode - where all the facts and motivations just come pouring out of the bad guys. I was glad to get the information, but wonder if it would have been better to hint at it from a police interrogation with the bad guys or perhaps a briefing from the police to the survivor(s).
Overall, I'd say the potential is there, and with a few tweaks, it could be a much more powerful story.