I’ve long been a fan of Susi Holliday’s writing so I was delighted when one of her older books under her SJI Holliday persona, The Lingering, became the September book for the reading group to which I belong. Sadly I’m away for the meeting and won’t get to join in the discussions about it, but I’m delighted to share my review today.
Most recently I reviewed Susi’s Substitute here and previously The Last Resort here. You’ll also find my review of Willow Walk here, an interview with Susi to celebrate The Damsel Fly here and my review of her excellent Violet here.
Published by Orenda on 15th November 2018, The Lingering is available for purchase in all the usual places including directly from the publisher here.
Married couple Jack and Ali Gardiner move to a self-sufficient commune in the English Fens, desperate for fresh start. The local village is known for the witches who once resided there and Rosalind House, where the commune has been established, is a former psychiatric home, with a disturbing history.
When Jack and Ali arrive, a chain of unexpected and unexplained events is set off, and it becomes clear that they are not all that they seem. As the residents become twitchy, and the villagers suspicious, events from the past come back to haunt them, and someone is seeking retribution
At once an unnerving mystery, a chilling thriller and a dark and superbly wrought ghost story, The Lingering is an exceptionally plotted, terrifying and tantalisingly twisted novel by one of the most exciting authors in the genre.
My Review of The Lingering
Ali and Jack are looking for a fresh start.
Let me say at the outset that I expected far more horror in The Lingering than I got. This is not a criticism as I’m not a horror fan and I far preferred the power of suggestion to the more overt moments of creepiness in the story! The Lingering is an impactful narrative, particularly when the reader understands that the oldest historical elements are based on real people and, without giving too much away about the plot, knowing that the author works within the pharmaceutical industry, so that where aspects might feel unusual, there’s an unnerving sense of truth and authenticity underpinning the narrative. SJI Holliday’s structure here is so clever as she makes history reverberate through the present day, as well as through the 1950’s journal of Dr Henry Baldock, making the reader wonder if a setting truly can become almost contaminated by its past.
I found the setting of Rosalind House set my nerves on edge even before the plot had begun to unfold. There’s a terrible sense of something wicked in the house, despite Smeaton’s attempts to create a positive atmosphere in the light, so that the reader is anticipating awful events. This makes the plot all the more affecting as the malevolence is uncovered. Given that I live in the Fens not far from where the story is set, I appreciated that sense of isolation the commune creates. Similarly, that claustrophobic nearby village community, where gossip and superstition can always be a good substitute for the truth, adds both atmosphere and realism.
I very much enjoyed The Lingering, even where I guessed some of the outcomes, but it was the underpinning psychological aspect that I found most engaging and disturbing. So many of the themes in The Lingering leave the reader thoughtful and unsettled. The treatment of women and of those with poor mental health, the way superstition can permeate society, the possibility of unworldliness, the themes of coercion, control and loyalty, all contribute to a malicious atmosphere that does indeed linger in the reader’s mind.
Cleverly presented, I though Ali was an abomination. I loathed her from the outset but was never quite certain whether my feelings about her would prove to be correct until the very end of the story. I couldn’t decide if she was far more insane than any of the previous inhabitants of Rosalind House had been, whether she was evil, or whether she was herself a victim of events. Obviously you’ll need to read The Lingering for yourself to find out! In fact, I suspected all the characters of duplicity at some point and because the author doesn’t uncover them all in detail I’m still pondering them and wondering what brought them to Rosalind House.
However, what I found most compelling was SJI Holliday’s exploration of what makes us evil, whether nature or nurture can play a part and how it’s the knowable that can be just as terrifying as the unknowable. We can be haunted by the supernatural, our own upbringing and past and by the actions we have carried out. In The Lingering, ghosts are the least of our worries!
The Lingering is, thankfully, not as frightening as I was expecting, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it as a result.
About Susi Holliday
Susi (S.J.I.) Holliday grew up in East Lothian, Scotland. A life-long fan of crime and horror, her short stories have been published in various places, and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize. She lives in London (except when she’s in Edinburgh) and she loves to travel the world.
Her serial killer thriller The Deaths of December, featuring Detective Sergeant Eddie Carmine and Detective Constable Becky Greene was a festive hit in 2017.
Writing as SJI Holliday, she also has three crime novels set in the fictional Scottish town of Banktoun, which are a mix of police procedural and psychological thriller. They are: Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly – all featuring the much loved character, Sergeant Davie Gray.
Also as SJI Holliday, her spooky mystery The Lingering was released in September 2018, followed by Violet – a psychological thriller set on the Trans-Siberian Express – in September 2019. Violet has been optioned for film.