Ghostly Gentlewomen – Susie Moloney

susie moloney Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll stumble across a book that’s so wonderfully spooky that it’ll take your breath away. You’ll want to shout about it and shove it under the noses of everyone you meet, demanding that they too enjoy its creepy charms.

I don’t know much about Susie Moloney. Google doesn’t give up many of her secrets. I know that she’s written three books – Bastion Falls (1995) A Dry Spell (1997) and that ten years ago, she wrote one of the best ghost stories I’ve ever read – 362 Belisle Street.

It’s a brilliantly told, compelling portmanteau tale – Arthur Machen’s The Three Imposters crossed with Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Actually, it owes a lot to Jackson – her famous line ‘some houses are born bad’ is at the heart of Susie Moloney’s tale. 362 Belisle Street is an unsettled house, and there’s something inside that sleeps uneasily, wanting company and wanting to play.

Every house must have an owner, and the occupants of 362 Belisle Street go through the doorway already carrying their fair share of personal problems.  Once inside, their insecurities and weaknesses are horrifyingly magnified.  Three owners enter the house as we read –  an ambitious young couple; an unhappy single mother and her portly son; an alcoholic writer. The house enfolds them in an embrace that gradually suffocates as the suspense intensifies.  Each of their stories ends with a climactic yet subdued horror that puts the house on the market again.

The threads of their tales are held together by Glenn, the estate agent who passes the keys along and finds a kind of peace in the house after her husband’s death and her own illness. Glenn is a wonderful character and the moral heart of the story –  the house welcomes her with warmth and love, as Hill House welcomed Eleanor.

362 Belisle Street is not a gruesome story. It’s elegantly written, and the supernatural tension is cool and seductive. You don’t see the ghost, but you feel his breath on your neck in the dark.  It’s a novel of Henry James quality but it’ll still have you staying up well into the night, listening breathlessly for sinister creaks and dragging steps in the attic.

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