My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This is the third book in Karina Halle’s “Experiments in Terror” series, though the story is self-contained and any needed background is provided along the way. I chose it because a) the cover looks neat (yes, I am still drawn to a good cover) and b) I liked that this particular ghost story was set on an actual local island here in BC.
The story follows webcasting ghost hunters Perry Palomino and Dex Foray as they set out to document the alleged haunting on a former Chinese leper colony on D’Arcy Island, located off the coast of Vancouver Island. Dex is a chain-smoking gruff thirty-something with a Dark and Mysterious Past while Perry is a 22 year old with serious confidence issues and also the ability to see ghosts.
The story is told from the first person perspective of Perry and Perry likes to go into great detail about what she is thinking, what she is doing, what she might be doing, what Dex should be doing (falling in love with her, it seems) and well, everything and anything. This is another story where much of the mystery and drama is leeched away by the protagonist basically not shutting up about every subject under the sun.
The romantic tension serves as the undercurrent to the story and consumes a surprisingly large chunk of it. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the will-they-won’t-they thing but it’s all fairly predictable.
The adventure on the island goes south quickly with all kinds of terrifying and horrifying sights and sounds. As with many horror stories it works best if you don’t step back and try to piece things together logically. The biggest issue here is probably how Perry can see ghosts but Dex can’t–until it’s needed story-wise for him to be able to.
On the one hand I admire the author for having a protagonist who isn’t some uber she-warrior able to handle everything with panache. Perry is neurotic, throws up, passes out, trips, falls and generally has a terrible time of it, yet she comes through it all a little stronger and a little surer. The arc for both characters growing is small but there.
In the end, though, the writing itself left me feeling ambivalent about the book. Halle does a fine job in capturing Perry’s voice but at times it’s detrimental to the story, with the tone veering all over the place, from melodramatic passages you’d expect from a bodice ripper to near-slapstick. Perry’s take on things often feels like an overheated teenager. It’s funny at times but the shifting tone and casual, almost sloppy style detract from the overall experience.
Still, this is a decent bit of terror and it moves at a brisk pace. It’s not likely to make you want to go camping on a remote island any time soon.