Booktrope, 114 pp.
Haunted follows the exploits of three college students (Steven, Paul and Tara) who spend their free time as paranormal investigators. The novella begins with an AP report about a haunted house in Connecticut, we then jump to a college lecture on how the human brain’s innate ability for pattern recognition leads people to see things that aren’t there. It’s a nice balance of belief versus skepticism that sets the initial tone for the story. I would have like to see a bit more of this rationality during the actual ghost hunt later in the book but it still makes for a strong opening.
Our heroes see the news about the haunted house and are quickly off to investigate. No surprise, this is a ghost story after all. More importantly though, it’s a story about people and relationships and in the course of the investigation we discover that the house isn’t the only thing that’s haunted—Tara is also haunted by events from her childhood. In a clever turnaround the haunted house becomes the “B” story and the investigators are transformed from passive observers to active participants. It’s tough to find an interesting new angle on haunted house stories shifting the focus from the house to the three students makes for a more refreshing story. And like the lecture at the start of the story teaches us, you may see a ghost story at first glance but if you look below the surface you’ll find a richer psychological character study. With ghosts.
Maksym’s strongest skill seems to be getting into the heads of her characters. She gives a believable voice to their hopes and fears, their motivations and their dreams. Fans of the genre know that haunted house stories don’t always have a happy ending—does Haunted? I won’t spoil anything for you, you’ll just have to read it for yourself to find out.