The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero
Seems like it’s been ages since we reviewed a novel, so here’s one I picked up a few months ago. Y’all know I love haunted house stories, and I’ve got a serious weakness for turn-of-the-century ghost stories — so this one easily drew me in, and then gave me some serious surprises, too.
This tale is told through a collection of documents — letters, video and audio transcripts, notebook conversations — as a young European referred to only as A. learns that a cousin he’s never heard of has died and left him a spooky mansion in Point Bless, Virginia. When he moves to America to take over the house, he brings his close friend Niamh, a mute punk girl from Ireland, and they both buy a collie named Help for a little more companionship in the mansion. And they start doing research about the weird history of eerie old Axton House.
The previous owner of the house — Ambrose Wells, A.’s mysterious cousin — committed suicide by throwing himself out a window — and at the very same age and from the very same window as his own father had committed suicide. Wells maintained secret, coded correspondence with a number of unknown people, and A. soon becomes obsessed with decoding the secrets of Wells’ secret society, and he begins having a number of vivid, bizarre, frightening dreams. At the same time, it becomes clear that Axton House is haunted, which is just one more thing messing with A.’s rapidly fraying sanity.
Is A. doomed to the same fate as his cousin? Will he and Niamh ever discover the secrets of Axton House? And what horrors await them when the Society joins together at the Winter Solstice?
Verdict: Thumbs up. An extremely enjoyable book with plenty of surprises, twists, and turns. Yes, it starts out looking like an old-school ghost story, then turns into a mystery before finally morphing into an occult action-adventure thriller. I thought it was just amazingly readable — the chapters were generally pretty short, which helped drag you deeper into the story, and it was hard to quit reading when you knew every few pages could reveal some new mystery or unveil something you never expected.
There’s a lot to be said for how great the characters are in this — A. makes an excellent protagonist, and the all-too-brief visits with Ambrose Wells’ butler and with the Society members are wonderful. Even Help, the dog, is a joy in every scene he’s in.
But the best character, the one that guarantees that this book gets my recommendation, is Niamh. She has more pure personality than everyone else in the novel put together. Her inability to speak doesn’t keep us from learning more about her, thanks to her ever-present notebooks, as well as A.’s descriptions of her. She’s got twice A.’s brains, ten times his charm, and 100 times his courage. She’s a hilarious badass wrapped up in a perky punk package, and she’s pretty much my favorite fictional character ever.
If you love supernatural mysteries, thrills, and adventure — along with a number of excellent characters — you’ll definitely want to pick this one up.