Lois Cairns is … was … a film history professor. She is currently out of a job and now in a deep depression after her son was diagnosed with autism. She retreats to where she is comfortable – film history – where she discovers the previous lost to the public, early 20th century Ontario filmmaker Mrs. A. Macalla Whitcomb (possibly Canada’s first female filmmaker?) who disappeared.
Lois throws herself into researching Whitcomb, her obsessions and her filmmaking (often one and the same), but the mysterious forces that may have been behind Whitcomb’s disappearance are invading Lois’s life, putting not only herself but her son and husband’s lives in danger as well.
This is billed as a contemporary ghost story, something which really interests me, and combined with the subject of films, this looked really appealing to me.
So, we’ve got two great characters (Cairns and Whitcomb) with both a contemporary and historical setting (modern film researcher and 1900’s filmmaker), and a bit of unexplained supernatural activity. Unfortunately we also have some dreadfully slow pacing. The story itself doesn’t really pick up until about half way through the book, which means the first half is spent setting up the characters and establishing the grounds for the story. But does it really take half a book to set up two main characters? Our minor characters our little more than stock characters used stereotypically (the husband is supportive and boring, the son, autistic perhaps senses something the rest of us don’t – ah, the supernatural).
I struggled to stay interested. While I definitely prefer strong characters who give me a reason to care about them (and this didn’t have that), I was still interested in the general concept enough to really want to like this and therefore even more disappointed that it let me down.
If you’re looking for a horror story or ghost story, there are a lot of really good options out there and this doesn’t stand up well to many of them.
Looking for a good book? Experimental Film by Gemma Files is a ‘contemporary’ ghost story that would fare better if it took on more a more ‘classic’ feel.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Gemma Files
publisher: ChiZine Publications
paperback, 352 pages