When David Caine, a celebrated skeptic of the supernatural, is invited by an old friend to spend a month in “the most haunted house ...

Review || The Siren and the Specter by Jonathan Janz

The Siren and the Specter book cover

 When David Caine, a celebrated skeptic of the supernatural, is invited by an old friend to spend a month in “the most haunted house in Virginia,” he believes the case will be like any other. But the Alexander House is different. Built by a 1700s land baron to contain the madness and depravity of his eldest son, the house is plagued by shadows of the past and the lingering taint of bloodshed. David is haunted, as well. For twenty-two years ago, he turned away the woman he loved, and she took her life in sorrow. And David suspects she’s followed him to the Alexander House. 

I’ve waited for quite a while after finishing The Siren and the Specter to write my review. I wanted to let it percolate for a bit in my mind before trying to assign a rating to it. As a book blogger, that’s one of the hardest measures of a book. I’m settling on a 3.5 Paws for this one. For those of you unfamiliar with my rating system, 3 is “it was okay” and 4 is “I liked it”. No matter how I try to approach it, this falls into that gray area in between. Let me tell you why.

Atmosphere: Janz sets an eerie tone from the very start. I had no problem visualizing the house and the surrounding area. The first 25% of the book is sluggish but I think that has chiefly to do with the setup of the location and character backstory. There is something “off”; whether it’s the house or the people. There is unquestionably a taint to the place you can’t quite put your finger on and with it, a fantastic sensation of anticipation. 

Characters: I liked the growth of the MC. He isn’t the most likable of characters and this shows in his interactions with…well, pretty much every other character. In the end, it was nice to see him pull his head out of his butt. Having said that, I think the only other character I enjoyed was the neighbor. The other characters in the book are annoying, or even repugnant. Especially the Shelbys. I was hoping something would take them out early i.e. rip their heads off, but alas, no. There are images that I need bleach to remove from my mind now. There are repeated scenes of depravity (both physical and sexual abuse, child neglect, etc.) that I would have preferred to avoid. While there is a tie-in to the story, I didn’t feel it truly essential, not to mention plain revolting. These people are truly the dregs of society.

Storyline: After the slow start, there is a lot going on in this book as far as multiple timelines and backstories. While I didn’t have any trouble following, simplifying it might have allowed me to get more into a spectral state of mind. While it was fine through most of the book, the last little bit got a bit crazy with tying up all the loose ends. 

While I can file this under C for creepy without hesitation, I had no problem staying up late at night reading in the house alone. I was more disturbed by the offensiveness and dubious morality of the couple next door than either the siren or the specter.  However, I realize that I’m not the average reader. I frustrate my husband every October when he wants to go to haunted houses. He loves getting scared and I’m the one appraising the sets while the actors are jumping out. With that being said, everyone’s fright factor is different. Most people are highly praising The Siren and the Specter so I might be in the minority on this one. 

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About the Author

Jonathan Janz is the author of more than a dozen novels and numerous short stories. His work has been championed by authors like Joe R. Lansdale, Jack Ketchum, and Brian Keene; he has also been lauded by Publishers Weekly, the Library Journal, and the School Library Journal. His novel Children of the Dark was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Horror Book of the Year. Jonathan’s main interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children. You can sign up for his newsletter (http://jonathanjanz.us12.list-manage....), and you can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads.

 FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launching in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.