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.
“The Rook family run a little family business. Ghost hunting. And business has picked up recently. Something’s wrong. It’s been getting noticeably worse since, ooh, 2016?
“Bad spirits are abroad, and right now they are particularly abroad on Coldbay Island, which isn’t even abroad, it’s only 20 miles from Skegness. The Rooks’ ‘quick call out’ to the church on Coldbay Island picks loose a thread that begins to unravel the whole island, and the world beyond.”
“Is this the apocalypse? This might be the apocalypse. Who knew the apocalypse would start in an off-season seaside resort just off the Lincolnshire coast? I’ll tell you who knew - Linda knew. She’s been feeling increasingly uneasy about the whole of the East Midlands since the 90s.”
Wish You Weren’t Here, by Gabby Hutchinson Crouch, introduces us to the Rook family, who each play their own parts in the family business of ghost-hunting. Mum Linda and son Darryl can see ghosts. Daughter Charity can’t see them, but can ‘pop’ them into the next world. Darryl’s husband Janusz does the accounts. And dad Richard? Well, it’s not every mild-mannered middle-aged man who co-inhabits his body with a demon called Murzzzz…
We meet the Rooks on their way to deal with a church haunting on Coldbay Island. What they thought would be a straightforward exorcism turns out to be a battle for the future of the planet. The earnest but despairing Reverend Grace Barry seems to be the only one on the island who isn’t a ghost or a demon, and there’s a rather ominous hole in the sky above the pier.
I found Wish You Weren’t Here a very funny and well thought-out book. The various settings - most notably, the church where the Rooks face their first challenge on the island, the abandoned Tesco where they face an unprecedented number of ghosts and demons, and the dentists’ waiting room where they hear from a succession of disgruntled spirits demanding to speak to ‘the Manager’ - are really well-observed. The author takes these highly recognisable, prosaic places and renders them extraordinary with witty, spot-on descriptions and incongruous happenings.
She also continually juxtaposes humour with danger, to great effect; for example, when a demon pulls Janusz (quite literally) into a stained-glass window, there’s a real fear that he might not be recovered, but it’s also amusing that the people and animals in scene depicted in the window react to his presence, while the tense action scenes in the supermarket are lightened by the deployment of merchandise from the shelves.
I loved the relationships between the various characters. It’s clear from the start that this is a loving family who tease and tolerate one another through thick and thin. Their differing talents mean they must work together to be effective, and even when they’re squabbling or reeling from more serious arguments, they join the fray and help each other out. Over the course of the book, we find out about parts of their history and previous cases they’ve worked on, and I’m looking forward to getting to know them further in future instalments.
Wish You Weren’t Here is a funny, imaginative and action-packed opener to an exciting new trilogy.