‘Mia’s best friend Holly died when they were thirteen. But years later, Holly still hasn’t left her.
Spending the summer in New York, Mia is hoping to escape the visions of Holly that haunt her life at home. There she meets Rav, a parapsychology student, who convinces her to take part in a study into why some people see ghosts. Soon she is caught up in the investigation of Halcyon House, which is reputed to be haunted by a poltergeist. As Mia confronts her fears, what she learns about the house and herself will change her life forever.’
Here Lie the Secrets opens with Mia, still trying to heal following the death of her best friend, Holly, experiencing what she believes to be a haunting by her, something that she has endured before, with ever more increasing emphasis on Holly’s disapproval and disappointment in her, to the extent that what she thinks Holly would believe and want has gained no small measure of control over her every day life. When she has the opportunity to spend the summer in New York, she takes it as her chance to escape familiar surroundings, and, hopefully, Holly’s presence and judgement of her.
The novel is an enjoyable one, particularly in how it explores the differing beliefs surrounding ghosts and the afterlife, looking at them from a scientific angle and the matter of the heart and mind – taking into consideration that the mind is a powerful thing, capable of that which we still don’t have extensive scientific answers for. When she arrives in New York, she meets Rav, who focuses on the study of paranormal phenomena, and when she is asked whether she believes in ghosts, she declares a very definite ‘no’ on more than one occasion, determined not to let her visions of Holly become something widely known or claim even more control over her life. However, she is soon brought into the world of Rav’s studies, and though she is an adult, it feels a little as if the group of academics and researchers are taking advantage of her for their own gains in a way that becomes quite unsettling as the narrative unfolds. This may be because we, the reader, know much more about Mia’s history, experiences, and the guilt that is tormenting her than the people who encourage her to take a central role in their exploration of Halcyon House, a property considered to be haunted by spirits responsible for the death of a child.
I particularly like stories that look at features of memory and the mind, which Here Lie the Secrets ties into examination of Mia’s grief and her need to resolve what she has experienced in an effort to move on with her life. She has kept the visions of Holly a secret from nearly everyone, afraid of what seeing a ‘ghost’ means for her and frightened that Holly’s hauntings are all too real and condemnation of what happened before her death. Mia denies that she believes in ghosts partly because facing the idea of Holly’s presence being real is almost as frightening as considering what it means for her mental state. Not only owing to that, but because of her fear of others condemning her for believing in something that many dismiss as impossible. Her work with Rav’s group allows her to examine what she considers to be plausible and not in terms of her own experience and that of others, and in uncovering the truths of what happened at Halcyon House learns more of human nature and the mind’s desire to protect itself from what it cannot face. Though the investigation is ostensibly concerned with whether the house is truly haunted, what happens during the study ultimately reveals more about the darker sides of those fuelled by guilt and ambition, and what they are willing to let others believe to make matters easier for them to bear.
The area of paranormal studies is one that I don’t know too much about, and I enjoyed learning more about the academic side of the subject over the course of the story. Here Lie the Secrets is a well-paced and engaging read that handles its subject material sensitively while providing a suspenseful narrative and a protagonist who is easy to empathise with and want a positive resolution for. Thank you, Little Tiger Books, for sending me an early copy for review! Here Lie the Secrets is out on June 25th!