This post is part of a blog tour organised by Random Things Blog Tours. I received a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.
‘Thirteen doors, thirteen hauntings. News reporter Joe Baxter has a plan.
‘His idea is simple – to use his newsroom contacts across England to find thirteen haunted places to stay, and then record his experiences in a book.
‘From an abandoned cinema to a dank pub cellar, from a World War Two airfield to a lonely, landlocked cruise liner, Joe is prepared to spend long nights in the cold and dark, but has no idea what he is about to unleash.
‘For, as he endures increasingly dangerous vigils, meeting a succession of gruesome, tragic and terrifying spectres, a terrible truth begins to emerge.
‘Something – or someone – is reaching out to Joe, awakening long-buried memories of his father’s death, a dark family secret and his teenage brush with madness.
‘And then there is Wilko, the imaginary friend who haunted his childhood. After decades of silence, Wilko has found his voice again…’
In 13 Doors, by G J Phelps, we follow journalist Joe Baxter as he sets out to brave overnight stays at 13 reputedly haunted locations across the UK, with the goal of writing a book.
We learn that Joe is particularly well-attuned to spirits who have failed to pass over to the other side, and that his father’s death and a much alluded-to incident when Joe was a teenager tie into this.
The unexplained phenomena ramp up at virtually every stop, building up to a point where Joe is in real danger. Can he face down his personal demons once and for all?
13 Doors is just my kind of horror novel. I love a good ghost story set in an eerie location, and this book has them in abundance.
I am in awe that Phelps has created such a wide range of spooky settings, not to mention well-developed, chilling legends and colourful custodians for each of them.
While Joe’s narratives are limited by necessity, there’s nonetheless a such strong suggestion of depth that I felt like most of the stories could comfortably be expanded into novels in their own right. There were certainly characters – living and dead – who I’d love to spend more time with and get to know better!
The ghosts themselves are also highly varied in terms of age (both in terms of how old they were when they died, and the historical period in which they lived) and disposition (they’re not all nasty – in fact, there are some tales that are remarkably sad and touching).
From a traditional Cornish cottage, to an archaeological dig site that’s been made into an interior feature, to an abandoned care home in the middle of woodland, and much more besides, each location is so vividly described that I could easily picture it for myself.
I really liked the intriguing theory and logic underlying Joe’s susceptibility to ghosts – as explained to him by a lovely, wise character called Patience – and the way his backstory is gradually revealed through professionals’ reports from the time. To go into any more detail here would spoil the overall story!
Suffice it to say, Joe Baxter is a very haunted man, and the book builds up to a hell of a showdown. At least he has a number of supportive people around him, and his warm and witty exchanges with them are important counterweights to the horrors he witnesses.
13 Doors is jam-packed with delightfully spooky stories and unnerving experiences, bound together by a well-executed premise.