cover image The Haunting of Leigh Harker

The Haunting of Leigh Harker

Darcy Coates. Poisoned Pen, $15.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-7282-2022-2

Coates (The Whispering Dead) revisits the haunted house story with this slow-burning horror novel. The odyssey of first-person narrator Leigh Harker occurs entirely within the old house where, she says, “the moment I stepped into it, I felt like I was home.” But while Leigh’s commitment to the house is rock-solid, there’s not much in the way of hints as to why she feels that way—a debilitating gap in a story that spends its first third solely describing Leigh’s encounters with a terrifying presence that chases her around and out of the building. Why doesn’t Leigh, a single professional woman, just leave? What is the house’s history? Who is the presence? Coates is in no hurry to answer or even clearly pose these questions, and the excellence of the descriptions wears thin with repetition. The story finally breaks open when Leigh meets the elderly Sarah, whose memories of the house jolt the plot to life, turning both Leigh’s and the reader’s preconceptions on their head in a solid twist. An offbeat partnership develops between the two women as they work to understand the haunting, bringing long-awaited closure to the nagging, neglected questions of the opening. The only issue left outstanding is whether readers will stick with the prolonged exposition to reach the payoff. [em](Sept.) [/em]