A Critique of Help for the Haunted by John Searles May 24, 2020

This is my first time reading John Searles. I always have some trepidations when reading a new suspense or horror writer. Will I be pleasantly surprised or terribly let down?.. Well, I was pleasantly surprised with this particular novel.

Help for the Haunted - a novel by John Searles - reviewed by Gigi

Help for the Haunted by John Searles – reviewed by Gigi

The opening scene is a grabber. A young teenage girl, Sylvie and her parents are called to the aide of their other child, Rose who is also a teenager but a bit older and more mundane. They are summoned to meet her at a church after receiving a frantic phone call. The family marches out into a wintry storm. The father is angered at Rose for dragging him out on such a frigid night because of another one of her histrionics . He demands that his wife and his other daughter stay in the car. He will handle the insanity himself. The description of the church, and peaceful snow fall while Sylvie and her mother wait in the car sets such a shocking contrast to the frightening and startling moment when Sylvie awakens to a noise similar to gunshot and finds her mother missing from the front seat. What happens from this point leads you down an interesting journey of murder and the supernatural. This book keeps you fully entranced.

The entire perspective of the book is from Sylvie’s point of view and it is based on a very intriguing “what if” scenario. Sylvie’s parents and her home life are anything but normal or average. Although, the family attempts to make life as “normal” as possible, the parents occupation by its very nature makes the effort futile So,The question presented is “What if your parents were noted demonologists back in the 80’s?” What if they were called upon continually to help strangers with other worldly problems? What if they brought their work home and you had to deal with this on a daily basis while growing up with all the normal problems of school, development and teenage hormones?

The book is very unique and I found it interesting that some of the situations such as a possessed Raggedy Ann Doll and a museum or collection of cursed items in the basement were very familiar to stories of a real life famous couple of demonologists, Ed and Lorraine Warren. Now, I truly enjoyed John Searles book . “Help for the Haunted” does hold your suspense and the perspective of the good child Sylvie, is refreshingly sweet and sincere.

There were a few hiccups in the book which may affect smooth reading. I found some rough transitioning and the late addition of a few extra characters a bit awkward. The transitions from a characters dialogs to an event was confusing. I had to reread a few passages because I was unsure if the event was still in the present time or a reflection of the past. There were also the addition of some late characters which really had only crumbs of foreshadowing. I would have preferred a stronger trail in the forest of possible suspects.
I would say overall, this book is a must read and you would be remiss in passing this one up!

I would encourage anyone who reads this book and hungers for some real life stories and anecdotes to read The Demonologist by Gerald Daniel Brittle . He writes a synopsis of the encounters the Warrens had back in the 70’s and 80’s from cursed objects, haunted homes to possessed individuals and their exorcisms.

  • Margo Earles says:

    I enjoyed your review. However, I found the book did not meet my expectations as they did yours. I realize the book was rated as one of the Top 10 Suspense Novel of 2013 by Amazon, however I personally thought it came up a little short as a horror story. In fact, I felt that the story read more like a detective novel than a horror/thriller. Unfortunately, for me this story doesn’t provide any real sustaining horror or thrills. Sylvie & Rose are growing up in what should be a very creepy household with parents as demonologists, but strangely their life style does not seem all that scary. I think the bizarre nature of the parents’ occupation could have been played up much more than it was. For me it was not really the edge-of-your-seat kind of horror story I was hoping for.

  • Caprice Graham says:

    I agree about being impressed with this author. John Searles thriller had me hooked right from the start. The stunning imagery had me mesmerized. At times I actually found it to be frightening, not so much concerning the supernatural aspects but with what was going on behind closed doors. Great depiction of what it’s like as children to have to grow up in in such a unique environment. The demonic-spiritual belief system was incorporated in a realistic manner,and the ending was an incredible twist.

    I would recommend to any horror/thriller fans!

  • Harlan Dustin says:

    I totally agree with you! The story really pulls you in. The ending is a big surprise too. Just the right level of spookiness – not too overtly or overly dramatic!

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