This is the third book I’ve read by Jonathan Janz. My journey with this author began with Dust Devils, then I read Witching Hour Theatre, and now The Siren And The Specter. In reading three of his books I can tell you, if you’re new to his work, that you’re going to have fun running into very fleshed out and also some odd characters along with some violence, both supernatural and not so supernatural, sprinkled throughout.
The Siren And The Specter is no different. Within the pages you meet David Caine, a writer who likes to debunk haunted houses and write about what he experienced while staying a night or two in said haunted house. One of my favourite things about Janz is his ability to create realistic heroes that are not the black and white of good or evil, and David isn’t necessarily a likeable guy when we meet him. We witness a scene where he pulls the rug out of a grieving widow, a rug of which sat the foundation of comfort, the only comfort, this poor woman had in losing her husband and believing he was still there. This is a great scene because it shows not only how committed David is to his work, but also what he’s willing to do in order to keep that commitment. Yet, despite my own dislike for David at first, I couldn’t help but root for him in his stay at the Alexander House, the main setting for this novel.
Speaking of which, the plot: David is invited to stay at the Alexander House, known as the most haunted house of Virginia, for a month by an old friend, Chris, and his wife, Katherine, who now own the house. They want for him to believe in the hauntings so that when they open the house to the public as a bed and breakfast, they’ll make a killing. While staying there the first night, the house wastes little time in messing with David. David, however, is stubborn, and explains all evidence as rational happenings or tricks of the mind.
Along the way we meet Honey, her husband, and their two kids. These are definitely the oddest characters within Siren, and I left my introduction to them wondering what the heck had I just read. There’s also Ralph Hooper, another neighbour who acts somewhat like David’s guide, Sheriff Harkless who is my favourite character, and Jessica. Each character breathes life and felt like real people, people that you know. More importantly, not including Honey and her own small carnival of horror, they act real.
The more David tries to debunk The Alexander House, the more it pushes back until deeply hidden secrets come to light. This creates a lot of layered tension and a few surprises.
Not every book is perfect, though, and although I found a lot of the supernatural elements in Siren as pretty spooky, some even giving me chills, the final confrontation lost a lot of that mystery and frightfulness. You’ll know what I mean when you get there, whether you agree or not.
Overall, The Siren And The Specter is a great read that allowed me to immerse myself completely in traveling along with David, figuring out things as he did. David is as layered and complex a character as the story is. The prose is easy on the eyes without being simple. Most importantly, The Siren And The Specter is a lot of fun. Go read it. I think you’ll be happy you did.
And seriously, check out this beautiful cover art!