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49 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spooky!
The Ghost Hunters

This book must be read!
Being mainly about Borley Rectory, my girlfriend brought me this awesome novel as she knew I was interested in Borley and all that happened there. I have done many hours research on the place, with five visits there, all of which were strange to say the least. But I am certain that the supernatural exists there,...
Published 7 months ago by mattycambs

versus
52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very uneven
This book is an imaginative account of the haunting of Borley Rectory, apparently "the most haunted house in England", and its investigation by ghost hunter, showman, charlatan (make up your own mind which) Harry Price. Set between the 1920s and the 40s, it takes us to a world where the relatives of those who fell in the First World War are exploited by false(?) mediums...
Published 8 months ago by D. Harris


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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very uneven, 7 Nov 2013
By 
D. Harris (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Ghost Hunters (Paperback)
This book is an imaginative account of the haunting of Borley Rectory, apparently "the most haunted house in England", and its investigation by ghost hunter, showman, charlatan (make up your own mind which) Harry Price. Set between the 1920s and the 40s, it takes us to a world where the relatives of those who fell in the First World War are exploited by false(?) mediums. These are hunted down in turn by the indefatigable Price. But Price has a problem. He is being supported and his "laboratory" accommodated by the Spiritualist movement, whose pet mediums he keeps debunking. So it may seem very convenient when an opportunity arises to investigate a serious haunting. Might Price (who was a real person), and his assistant, Sarah Grey (who wasn't) encounter something much darker and much nastier than they expect?

Based on real events, the story is told, mainly, by Grey, in a dusty manuscript found years after the events it narrates. It has received lavish praise. But is it really any good? I don't like to have to dissent from the general positive tone of most reviews, but I had big problems with this story. I feel it's best seen as two different books, one rather mundane, the other more effective.

The first part, following what actually goes on at Borley, seemed rather plodding. Frankly, nothing much happens. Spring moves his characters to Borley and back, introduces a journalist, Vernon Wall (another real person) to inject some tension, and tries to animate a conflict between Wall, Price and Grey. It just didn't convince. For example, there is a scene where Wall leaves Borley for London and Grey apparently faces a choice - him or Price? That is referred back to repeatedly in the book and is apparently a key emotional episode to all three. But somehow the writing never matches up to the importance of the moment so through the rest of the book I simply became more and more puzzled as to why everyone behaved as they did.

It doesn't help that the writing is, in places, rather garbled. For example, consider this description of a haunting:

"...One night, Marianne found pebbles behind her pillow; another time, just outside the Blue Room, she was struck in her face by some unseen force only to be turned out of bed, three weeks later, three times in one night!"

Struck in her face by some unseen force - horrible. Turned out of bed three times in one night - ghastly. But there are three weeks between the two events, yet Spring has crammed them together as though one followed immediately on the other. This just reads as odd.

Spring has clearly carried out an admirable amount of research, which he often deploys with skill - but in other places, and this is one, it looks as though he's simply dumped the content of his notebooks into the story without much attempt to edit it. Another example of this is towards the end of the book, where there is confusion about who owns the Rectory then - we are told that in the 1940s the Rectory was about to be disposed of "by the Rector" so that Price had to act quickly with his investigations, then that (earlier) it had been sold to a Captain Gregson, who filed an insurance claim only to have it rejected. I realise this may seem picky, but glitches like these bring the reader (well, me) up sharp and make it hard to stay in the book.

Another problem is the numerous phrases ("video camera", "glamour modelling", "photo shoots", "State-of-the-art", "I like unconventional", "hijacked my thoughts", "the Rectory is in lockdown") which belong more in the 2000s than the 1920s or 30s. There are howlers such as "mitigated against" (for "militated") and - in a book that features Sir Arthur Conan Doyle! - Sherlock Holmes's famous saying "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth" is misquoted as "when you have eliminated the improbable..." making it into a nonsense. All this is, I think, simply poor editing. It is a shame when an author is let down by stuff like that: the point of editing a book is to pick up things which the author, having read the text over and over, simply can't spot any longer.

For all these reasons, I found it very hard to keep going with this book through the first two thirds. I didn't believe the characters, I kept tripping over the writing, and not much happened.

I have to say the book does improve though as the story moves on, it becomes less an account of "bumps in the night" (flying bars of soap, heaving tables and the like) and turns into something more subtle and chilling. It is difficult to say more about what happens without giving away the plot, but on balance I think it's worth persevering through the first section for the sake of the ending and based on this book I'd judge that Spring is much better at writing fiction than fictionalising real events - the later plot developments are largely imagined and much less based on the "facts" of Borley (whatever they really are!) with less occasion for notebook-dumps. In fact I think if you took the last hundred pages or so of the book, rewrote it as a novella (the ideal length, perhaps, for this sort of ghost story) with a little context at the start, and proofread it drastically, you'd get a much better book.

That gives me a dilemma in rating the book. If I had to judge the first part on its own, I would award it no more than two stars. For the ending, I'd give four. So overall - three stars.

Neil Spring is a promising author. I hope he writes more, hopefully out-and-out fiction, and that in future his books are better edited.
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49 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spooky!, 19 Dec 2013
This review is from: The Ghost Hunters (Paperback)
The Ghost Hunters

This book must be read!
Being mainly about Borley Rectory, my girlfriend brought me this awesome novel as she knew I was interested in Borley and all that happened there. I have done many hours research on the place, with five visits there, all of which were strange to say the least. But I am certain that the supernatural exists there, parallel to this world.
This book gives a solid account of what might have happened there between the 1920's and 1940's. With interesting characters, some of which are real, you are transformed into the heart of the action, which is a thrilling and sometimes scary read with superb description and depth.
I thoroughly enjoyed it, and can honestly say that it is the best novel I have ever read! I could not sleep, thinking about the story, wanting to read on, the girlfriend regretted buying it as she could not sleep for my bedside lamp being on all night!
I have read the other reviews and I know this one isnt very well written, without many long words and terrible grammar, but it is the truth. I have never done a review before, but I honestly loved this book, I HIGHLY recommend it.
Thanks for reading my first, I am no longer a review virgin. BUY THIS BOOK!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Amazed by the baffling and nauseatingly gushing reviews!, 4 Jan 2014
By 
still searching (MK UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Ghost Hunters (Paperback)
Based upon existing reviews I was expecting a lot from this book. Unfortunately, for me it failed to deliver. Basically, it’s the story of true life ghost hunter, Harry Price, and his ridiculously compliant assistant Sarah Grey, 23 years his junior and, an ex-glamour model, of all things! Did ‘glamour’ models exist in the 1920s? The answer is a resounding no! Clearly, though slightly later, there were ‘pin-up’ girls, Betty Grable being the obvious example, and ‘French postcards’, but ‘glamour modelling’ as we know it today, didn’t exist and if it did it certainly wouldn’t have been the sort of ‘profession’ entered into by a respectably brought up young woman.

Anyway, that aside, Harry Price’s story is told from Sarah’s viewpoint and she wastes no time in telling us how physically unattractive she thought he was, pointing out, among other decidedly unappealing features, his ‘yellow’ teeth on more than one occasion. As the story proceeds we also find out, if the book is to be believed, what a truly obnoxious scoundrel the man was: not only a fraud regarding psychic phenomena but his whole life was based upon lies and, just to add the final nail to his character coffin, he was a Nazis sympathizer to boot! He also treated Sarah with often ill-disguised disdain and ranted and raved, almost to the point of physical violence, at anyone who questioned his ultimate authority. All of this and we are expected to believe that this young attractive and intelligent woman worshipped the ground upon which he walked.

It was this aspect of the story and her simpering attitude towards this monster that, for me, undermined any credibility the book might have had in revealing the true story of Harry Price and the true mystery of Borley Rectory. Why the author chose to invent, as his narrator an attractive much younger woman, is more of a mystery in itself than anything revealed within the pages of his debut novel.

The book opens promisingly as a first person account told by Dr Robert Caxton, a psychologist who has received a ‘curious letter’ from a library curator of the University of London asking him to call and collect a mysterious manuscript, which turns out to be authored by Sarah Grey. It is only in the final chapter that we learn its significance for Caxton who provides an appropriate epilogue. Sandwiched between the opening and the epilogue, which are fine pieces of writing and worth at least 4 stars, is the ‘confession of Sara Grey’, a much less assured piece of writing and worth, at the most, only 2. To me, the reason why she found Price so alluring and why she felt compelled to sacrifice so much for his benefit wasn’t articulated clearly enough and, as a result, she never ‘rang true’ and thus, unfortunately, neither did her story.

Some of the reviews of this book have been nauseatingly ‘gushing’ which, in itself is more mystifying than anything revealed in its pages and makes one wonder if the people responsible have read any genuinely good ghost stories, one obvious example being Susan Hill’s, The Woman in Black; a genuine spine-tingler!
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ghost Hunters, 24 Oct 2013
This review is from: The Ghost Hunters (Paperback)
I would not normally read stories about ghosts, but this new novel impressed me. The author's passion for the paranormal and vivid writing style brought the eerie events at Borley Rectory to life in a way I had not anticipated. I think the book will appeal across age groups, and I have just ordered another copy as a present for my grandmother!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars had to drag myself through, 18 Mar 2014
This review is from: The Ghost Hunters (Paperback)
I dont normally write reviews but from about 150 pages in I felt it was my duty to counter so many praising reviews of this book, Reviews which convinced me to buy it in the first place!!
Somehow the author took the exciting and intriguing topic of borley rectory and turned it into a dull narrative that skirts around the actual haunting and wanders off into boring personal issues of even duller people.
I'm a huge fan of female heroines/leads in books, I love Phillipa Gregory, game of thrones etc. But the female lead in this book is pathetic. She is weak and he life totally revolves around the male characters. Frankly its insulting, it's obvious it was written by a man, no way a woman would have created such a tragic loser of a female lead.
I also agree with another of these reviews which describes how the book sometimes loses the plot, seems to reference previous things that were barely mentioned previously.
In conclusion this book was a slog. The only reason I bothered to finish it is because I paid full price for it in a bookstore. Please don't waste your time with it. It's an insult to book writing
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37 of 45 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly tedious and poorly written (spoiler alert - and I mean that in more ways than just with reference to my review!!), 10 Jan 2014
This review is from: The Ghost Hunters (Paperback)
I am honestly in a bit of a shock after the days and days that I have tried to wade my way through Neil Spring's supremely tepid and frankly appallingly badly written (AND edited, AND proofread - honestly, Quercus!!) debut novel. The shock is partly induced by the fawning reviews on Amazon praising Spring's efforts. Did I get a copy out of which some malicious soul had ripped the pages housing the story that, it appears, has captivated the minds and imaginations of several of my peers and replaced them with the drivel some well-intentioned and high-aiming undergrad spouted in a creative writing class? But no, then I spotted the other reviews expressing bemusement and disappointment at what reads like 500 pages of phonebook...

I will make an attempt at battling the haze of general dislike that I am inflicted with at the moment and jot down some specifics:

* did ANYBODY proofread this? There are several typos, several grammatical and syntactical errors, and something that I see another reviewer also was thrown off by - a reference to some 'objects who made their way down the stairs' when in fact the reader has been told of zero objects coming down the stairs... The level of errors in this book is absolutely unforgivable: it's not just a case of one or two awkward little mistakes, but multiple errors sometimes in the same chapter. This is not what I'd expect of a professional publishing-house; perhaps this can be forgiven in the 50 shades of-variety of book but presumably there was a team of editors, copyeditors, proofreaders etc working on this. (Perhaps they also got bored and left off at halfway.)

* The characters - especially the narrator, OH DEAR LORD - are so uninteresting, lukewarm, unlikeable, unsympathetic, two-dimensional that I have seen some automated energy company emails that have more depth and characterisation. Just to give an example of the extremely odd decisions Spring has his (main) narrator make: at the beginning of the novel she is busy helping her friend plan her wedding. The chapter ends in the fateful words of "little did I know that it'd be 16 months till I saw her again" (quoting from memory so this might not be 100% accurate). *ANY* reader of horror, suspense, thriller - come to think of it, just any reader - will assume this is because of some mysterious event that waylays her friendship. But no - a few chapters down the story has jumped by the 16 months and the narrator is awkwardly attending the wedding with no explanation as to why she hasn't seen her friend for over a year. Umm, what?

* The style of writing is horrid: I guess the author is going for the kind of "story-within-a-story" element, narrating via two different people and layers, intersecting the main story with "newspaper clippings" and "footnotes" to make the story seem more authentic and believable. Well, shame that his skills do not quite match up with the ambition: the footnotes are so sparsely peppered in the text that they are very intrusive when you do come along one (I'd say COMMIT! and either do the footnotes properly - like A.S.Byatt in Possession, to quote one example - or just don't do them at all). The author also does not have the skill to maintain several different voices - the female narrator whose diary we're supposedly reading, the professor who picked up the manuscript from London, and the newspaper clippings that, we are told, have been written by a journalist who is as flat and uninteresting as the rest of the cast. Ugh. I'm getting shivers and a sore stomach just thinking about this book.

What to conclude with? Well, I salute the author for pulling whatever strings he's found dangling away in the world of publishing. I seriously don't understand how - who - why this book exists. It should never have seen the light of day. I cannot warn people off this book enough - I feel like the hours I put into reading this were stolen from me!

Rant over, recovery-mode with some actual horror next - perhaps a dose of Shirley Jackson will restore my faith in reading again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Creepy in parts... but a bit long-winded at the end., 19 April 2014
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This review is from: The Ghost Hunters (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this book about Borley Rectory (the most haunted house in England!) and Harry Price's investigation of it, his personal life and his (fictional) involvement with his secretary, Sarah Grey. Told from the viewpoint of Sarah, the story is genuinely creepy in parts and there is some really fine writing in here. I loved the parts that focussed on the rectory itself and I really enjoyed the evocation of England between the war years. However, in my opinion, it is just a tad over-long - the story stretches on and on and by the final stage I was getting just a tiny bit sick of it. The final part could just have done with tightening up a bit and not being quite so waffly. On the whole, I must stress, I did enjoy this book, but I felt that it just got a bit longwinded at the end. Don't want to do the same thing with my review, so I'll end it there.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It went on for far too long, 24 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Ghost Hunters (Paperback)
I bought this in kindle format to read of an evening whilst holidaying in a Cornish cottage with the wind whistling round the house. It started off very well and the investigations into Borley Rectory were quite fun - even though we all know the whole thing is a load of hokum.

However, I got the feeling that Mr Spring didn't quite know how to end his tale and the last hundred or so pages seemed to be travelling all around the proverbial houses without reaching any satisfactory conclusion. The years passing by and the 'Dark Lady' continually moving closer and closer to our narrator and her dear Mama all seemed decidedly feeble and rather poorly done.

An entertaining yarn (at least the first half) but 'must try harder' next time. "The Seance" by John Harwood was a far better tale!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Ghost Hunters, 29 Oct 2013
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Ghost Hunters (Kindle Edition)
This novel merges fact and fiction in an absorbing and evocative ghost story. Harry Price (1881-1948) was a real psychic researcher; a sceptic renowned for exposing fake spiritualists and best known for his investigation into Borley Rectory, called `the most haunted house in England." In this book, an academic is given a manuscript by Miss Sarah Grey, which tells the story of Price's investigation into Borley Rectory. Miss Grey was a young woman whose father had died in the first world war and who lived with her mother. Like many of her generation, her mother looked for answers in spiritualism, which flourished after the war, capitalising on grief. Sarah and her mother attend a meeting with Mr Price, after which she is fascinated by both him and his work. Before long, she has become his assistant and her life is changed forever.

This story takes place over some years, following Price's work looking at mediums and at the unfolding story of Borley Rectory and the visits made there by him and Sarah Grey, as well as journalist Vernon Wall and the changing inhabitants of the Rectory. Those of you who enjoy horror books may find this a little tame - but it is perfectly pitched for those who enjoy a more old fashioned ghost story. The characters are sympathetic, the events at the Rectory both creepy and sensational and neither those in the book, nor the readers, are sure what to believe. My main complaint with most ghost stories are the endings, which are often either tame or unbelievable, but the author manages to finish the book well and bring about a sense of completion. Overall, I found this very impressive - it would make a wonderful book for a reading group too, which much to discuss and is a perfect Halloween treat.
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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting tale that will keep you turning the pages long into the night, 24 Oct 2013
This review is from: The Ghost Hunters (Kindle Edition)
The Ghost Hunters is a psychological horror story that haunts the senses with each turn of the page. Spring has skilfully blended fact with fiction to re-imagine the life of Harry Price, London's most notorious ghost hunter during the 1930s and 1940s, through the fictional voice of a young assistant - Miss Sarah Grey.

Spring captures the clipped tones of a well bred young woman of the time perfectly. Miss Grey has survived the First World War, she lives in genteel poverty with her mother and her father has passed away. She encounters Mr Price through her mother's obsession with wanting to get in touch with her father's spirit. When Miss Grey is sceptical that any such contact could be made, she makes a profound impression on Price and he offers her a job as his assistant.

Price's compulsion to expose fraudulent mediums and charlatans (the novel features many of those whom he encountered and exposed in real life) begins to have an impact on Miss Grey's life. All her time revolves around his schedule to the detriment of other relationships. Despite his abrupt manner and tendency to be rude to her in front of others, she becomes obsessed by him, but the longer she is with him the less she knows about the man. Was he a showman, a conman, or was he genuinely in search of the truth?

Price rose to fame after he began investigating the haunting of Borley Rectory in 1929, said to be the most haunted house in England. It is this haunting and the impact it has on Miss Grey and Harry Price that drives the narrative of the novel. The floor plans of Borley Rectory are printed in the front of the novel so the reader can see exactly where the characters are as they encounter each phenomenon. In addition, throughout the text here are footnotes relating to news reports at the time.

The story that haunts these pages is cleverly constructed; it reminded me of The Woman in Black by Susan Hill at times, with an equally frightening apparition at the heart of it, a creature whose curse haunts those with secrets to keep. There is deception in the darkness of this tale; truth flickers in the shadows and flits away, twisting the minds of those who dare not face it. The mounting tension and creeping sense of dread will keep you turning the pages long into the night.

With thanks to the publisher - Quercus - for the review copy.
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