My Haunted Library

All things spooky. Your source for paranormal and supernatural book and movie reviews, strangeography, Halloween crafts and a little cozy fall baking.


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Review: Little Girls

Little Girls – Ronald Malfi, 2015. Rating: 3.5/5

After the violent suicide of her elderly father, Laurie returns to her childhood home to handle the aftermath. She hasn’t had a relationship with her father since she was young and has no positive memories of the massive old house. Laurie plans to sell the place, sell her dad’s stuff, and go back to Hartford as quickly as possible. But Laurie, her writer husband, Ted, and their ten-year-old daughter Susan end up staying longer…bad idea.

Like the house, Laurie has a shadowed history and unpleasant, long-buried memories soon begin to surface. It doesn’t help that the creepy little girl next door, Abigail, happens to be the spitting image of Laurie’s sadistic childhood friend who was killed in a freak accident on the property. Laurie begins to worry about the uncanny Abigail’s influence on Susan.

Questions arise about her demented father’s seemingly straightforward death and the longer Laurie and her family stay, the more Laurie’s tension, her fear of little girls, and her frustration with Ted grow. Is the house haunted? Has Sadie somehow returned? Is Laurie losing her mind?

Malfi nails the classic ghost story atmosphere. A creepy house filled with sounds. Shadows under locked doors. An abandoned well. A shattered greenhouse. Slightly off-kilter neighbors. Remnants of her father’s madness carved into the house. Shivery! Tension builds nicely as two seemingly disparate storylines intersect—albeit awkwardly—in a stormy climax and gut-punch ending. My biggest difficulty is that I didn’t really like the characters all that much. Laurie, perhaps understandably, is a wet blanket, and Ted comes across as whiny and condescending. The most interesting character is the sick, dead father, whom we get glimpses of through flashbacks and second-hand accounts.

Little Girls is a fast read with some unique, creepy-gross touches. It will satisfy your summer ghost story craving, but personally I enjoyed the chilly suspense and dark weirdness of Malfi’s Bone White much more.

rating system three and a half crows


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Review: Nightmare House

Nightmare House.  Douglas Clegg.  2004.

Welcome to a very satisfying ghost story.

It is October of 1926 when twenty-nine-year old Ethan Gravesend takes possession of his new inheritance: a monstrosity of mansion called Harrow located in a quiet village off the Hudson Valley.

Harrow is a legacy from Ethan’s wealthy – and some say, mad – grandfather who collected arcane and ancient objects from around the globe.

Ethan is excited to be back at Harrow.  He has only the fondest memories…so he thinks…of summer and spring visits there as a child.  He meets the old housekeeper, Mrs. Wentworth, and pretty Maggie Barrow who comes in to clean.

The house and its legion of unseen inhabitants soon lets Ethan know it is very much aware of – and anticipating – his presence.  When he and Maggie and her young son Alf make a horrible discovery in a walled-in tower room, Ethan is catapulted into a true nightmare.  There are secrets in the walls.  Secrets in Ethan’s parentage.  And madness potentially within Ethan himself as memories not so fond begin to surface.

Nightmare House has all the delicious elements of a classic ghost story: surprising secrets, an insular, brooding atmosphere, dark imaginative imagery, and classical allusions beautifully woven into the tale.  Clegg’s storytelling is spot-on.  Tantalizing snippets of a gruesome backstory involving an unnatural child and dark spiritualism experiments are revealed by the not-so-innocent Constable Pocket.  Ethan, or Esteban, is narrating from an advanced age, insisting his mind is sharp, but how reliable is he really?  A powerful storm, a possessive presence, a spooky crypt, and two questionable deaths bring a vivid denouement to this nicely-crafted tale.

As a bonus, the edition I read included an extra novella, Purity, which tells the story of another slightly damaged young man.  A sociopath?  With a Lovecraftian god? Also a fascinating read.