The White Devil by Justin Evans has been around for a little over a year. It was reviewed by S. Krishna (here), reviewed last year over at The Huffington Post, and by Daphne at Where There is Joy (here), and they all think the same way I do about this book: it's a darn good ghost story.
Andrew Taylor arrives at an English boarding school, Harrow, from America. It's his last year of school, he's 17, and he was thrown out of several prestigious schools in the US for his attitude, and finally drugs. He doesn't do them regularly, this is not a ghost story about that. It does set the scene for a fairly troubled young man, as he attempts to find his bearings in England, where he has never been before. It features Byron too, in a fairly big way, which makes this a literary ghost story, and I loved this part. Byron! Poetry! his early life, especially, as in this story, Byron went to Harrow over 150 years ago.
One of the fun things about this book is that Evans doesn't wait - the ghost puts in an appearance almost right away. What's also fun is that many of the adults involved don't scoff or dismiss Justin - because they can feel something too. Creepy, yes? Very. And also very well done - all the characters are believable, interesting, and while it's set in a boarding school, with all the enclosed environment that breeds, the action moves quickly. A surprising death comes almost at once, and Andrew sees something over the body. He is marked though he doesn't know it. It's a chilling story, very effective, scary, and with a ghost that will make you very very glad you are on this side of the ocean.
I could not put this down, and devoured it as fast as I could. I had to know what happened at the end. I found myself thinking about this book through the day, going over it, feeling sad that something Andrew does, he won't get credit for. That's how real this story is. Gripping, too, fast-paced, and funny at times also. I really enjoyed this. If you are looking for a final ghost story to read for RIP, I recommend this one highly.
Some thoughts on ghost stories
It did get me to thinking about ghost stories, and the underlying sense of unease that we have with ghosts. So many ghost stories end badly for the main character, and it's almost as if a character is marked when he or she sees the ghost. Their life will never be the same. Think of the governess in Turn of the Screw, driven made by the two children. Think of Eleanor of The Haunting of Hill House, and how she goes to escape her mean life, and discovers that she can never leave. Ghosts mark you, almost like how in the Irish folk tale that if you hear the banshee, you are going to die. Implacable, unchangeable, somehow ghosts and the ghostly touch and change whoever comes into contact with them. Creepy, eerie, scary, chilling, and we come back for more. I think there is a small measure of, thank heaven that's not us. How about Danny is The Shining? I so would not EVER want to spend a night alone in the Overlook Hotel, never mind a whole winter!!!!
How about you, do you love ghost stories? Have you found any good ghost stories during this RIP challenge?