Title: The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run
Author: Matthew S. Cox
Date of Publication: January 18, 2019
Publisher: Division Zero Press
When Mia’s husband buys a beautiful old house at a bargain, she can’t help but wonder what’s wrong with it. She doesn’t have to wonder for long, because it quickly becomes obvious that the house is haunted. Her husband is delighted–he’s a university professor who’s looking for proof of the paranormal. Mia quickly discovers that she’s psychically sensitive to the spirits in this house. While one of them is a harmless little girl Mia would do anything to protect, there is something else that is much more sinister lurking the halls of Six Minstrel Run…
This novel fights a lot of tropes in the paranormal activity subgenre. First off, Adam, a professor at the university, bought this house because he knew it was haunted. He wanted to see if he could capture evidence of the existence of ghosts on camera. This automatically sets this novel apart from others like it–where there is that inevitable first third of the book where the protagonists are in denial that supernatural beings exist. Even Mia, the skeptic, believes that there is a ghost in this house within the first few chapters.
There is a lot of paranormal activity right off the bat, which also sets this book apart. Usually in novels like this the author plays with shadowy figures in the corner of your eye, mysterious noises in the dead of night, and other events that can be attributed to the imagination or natural phenomenon. But this book escalates things a lot more quickly. The plot isn’t about whether or not the protagonists believe there is a ghost. It’s about Mia getting to know the ghost of the little girl that lives there, all the while questioning if she’s truly a little girl at all, or if she’s something insidious…
The book also has religious undertones, as there is a priest who makes regular appearances at Six Minstrel Run, warning Adam and Mia that they need to leave before its too late. He fears for their souls, though Adam and Mia find him more annoying than the ghosts inhabiting their home. This theme is carried throughout, as Mia was raised Catholic but turned against her religion for slightly spoilery reasons.
I had to suspend my disbelief just a tad when reading this book. Some of the plot points that I lauded in the “Plot” section make for unrealistic main characters. Mia is supposedly a skeptic, yet the first time she has a paranormal encounter in this book, she instantly believes. Both Mia and Adam are invested in keeping the house, but as the paranormal events escalate, they remain oblivious to the danger they’re truly in. Even someone who was desperate to prove the paranormal exists would have run for the hills after some of the events that take place early on in this story. The main characters’ lack of relatability can be countered by saying that the novel isn’t meant to be horror, and that it at times takes a sardonic tone, but whether that was intentional or not is unclear. The writing style is a lot lighter than you would expect a book with this type of plot to be. I talk a bit more about this element a little more in depth in the Language section below.
There is a lot of cutesy back and forth banter between Mia and Adam, which serves to make me as the reader truly invested in their relationship. They love each other, and there’s never a point in the novel where I questioned that even for a moment.
I was particularly invested in the strange yet beautiful relationship between Mia and the ghost girl. It’s clear that Mia has motherly instincts despite not being a mother, and she worries for the safety of the little girl, what with the other spirits that inhabit this house. She wants to protect her, despite not truly knowing if she isn’t dangerous, and the relationship is quite tender and refreshing. It also adds to the horror element, as there’s nothing scarier than a child that might just be homicidal. The little girl ghost is adorable yet incredibly creepy, a beautiful dichotomy that makes this book truly unique.
As mentioned earlier, the tone of the book is light. It reminded me a little of Jay Ansen’s “The Amityville Horror”, as it has that sense of the author calmly relaying the facts, no matter how disturbing they might be. Many books rely on language to instill that fear in the reader, yet in this case (and in The Amityville Horror’s case), the language was a mere medium for relaying the horror of the events that unfold.
I recommend this book to anyone looking for a refreshing take on an old subgenre–the ghost story–with a unique twist.
*Thank you to Blackthorn Book Tours for ebook for review*
Originally from South Amboy NJ, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Since 1996, he has developed the “Divergent Fates” world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, The Awakened Series, The Harmony Paradox, the Prophet of the Badlands series, and the Daughter of Mars series take place.
His books span adult, young-adult, and middle-grade fiction in multiple genres, predominantly science fiction, cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic, and fantasy.
Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, developer of two custom tabletop RPG systems, and a fan of anime, British humour, and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of humanity, reality, life, and what might happen after it.
He is also fond of cats, presently living with two: Loki and Dorian.