Monday 23 January 2017

Review: Popular Fiction: The Dead Summer by Helen Moorhouse

Poolbeg, €15.99

Published 11/06/2011 | 05:00

Take a vulnerable woman with a new baby out of her comfort zone, add a large dose of ghostly terror and in the skilful hands of new author, Helen Moorhouse, you've got compulsive reading.

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The woman in question is Martha Armstrong who, after a heartbreaking divorce, decides to leave London and take her baby Ruby to a cottage in Norfolk to write a book. At first, Hawthorn Cottage seems like a rural idyll, but there are strange occurrences -- noises in the night and furniture being moved around. Even little baby Ruby's soothers end up on the floor away from her cot and Martha feels she is being watched by a malevolent presence.

Two stories are interwoven here and the horrifying truth is gradually revealed about a previous mother and child -- the ghosts of a repressive past -- who lived in the house in the 1950s when it was called Eyrie Farm.

Seventeen-year-old Lily is sent to the farm from Clontarf in Dublin to help her pregnant and unmarried sister Marion.

When the baby is born, they are abandoned by friends and family. While Lily loves the baby boy as her own, Marion resents him and becomes deranged and is driven to an unspeakable crime.

Martha is more fortunate than the earlier residents. Help is at hand from a couple of psychic investigators. But Martha must face up to the demons alone along with baby Ruby, and in a chilling showdown, she is able to put the past to rest.

Moorhouse, who is originally from Laois and now lives in Dublin, has worked behind the scenes in radio for the past 13 years.

The Dead Summer is a brilliant first novel, guaranteed to send shivers down your spine.

ann dunne

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