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Help for the Haunted

Help for the Haunted

4.2 109
by John Searles

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John Searles’s Help for the Haunted is an unforgettable story of a most unusual family, their deep secrets, their harrowing tragedy, and ultimately, a daughter’s discovery of a dark and unexpected mystery.

Sylvie Mason’s parents have an unusual occupation—helping “haunted souls” find peace. After receiving a


John Searles’s Help for the Haunted is an unforgettable story of a most unusual family, their deep secrets, their harrowing tragedy, and ultimately, a daughter’s discovery of a dark and unexpected mystery.

Sylvie Mason’s parents have an unusual occupation—helping “haunted souls” find peace. After receiving a strange phone call one winter’s night, they leave the house and are later murdered in an old church in a horrifying act of violence.

A year later, Sylvie is living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened to their parents. Now, the inquisitive teenager pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night—and to the truth about her family’s past and the secrets that have haunted them for years.

Capturing the vivid eeriness of Stephen King’s works with the compelling quirkiness of John Irving’s beloved novels, Help for the Haunted is that rare story that brings to life a richly imagined and wholly original world.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
"No one makes eye contact or talks to me unless it is to taunt me about my parents and the things that happened to them—the thing that almost happened to me too…." Sylvie Mason and her sister, Rose, are left to fend for themselves after a fateful night that claims their parents' lives. A mysterious phone call is all it took to send her parents out in a blizzard, to a church from which they never returned. All that remains are questions, and Sylvie is determined to find out the truth even if it means going down to the scariest, darkest place in her house: the basement. VERDICT Searles (Boy Still Missing; Strange But True), has written a truly creepy, smart psychological thriller that will keep readers turning pages until the very end. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 3/18/13.]—Cynthia Price, Francis Marion Univ. Lib., Florence, SC
Publishers Weekly
Readers of this unsettling coming-of-age story from Searles (Strange but True) may feel the need to whistle past the graveyard by the end. Nothing has been the same for Sylvie Mason since the cold winter’s night when her parents went to a deserted church, not in their self-proclaimed capacity as the saviors of haunted souls, but to meet their runaway older daughter, Rose. Left asleep in the car, Sylvie is awakened by the sound of the gunshots that ended her parents’ lives. Nearly a year later, her grief is still fresh. Schoolmates taunt her, and though Rose has assumed legal responsibility for Sylvie, the older Mason girl fails to properly feed, clothe, or otherwise nurture her younger sister, all the while behaving erratically. Sylvie continues to lie to the police about Rose’s whereabouts that fatal night, even as the trial of a man arrested for the crimes approaches. Her current existence, her parents’ “gifts” and vagabond lifestyle, and strange goings-on in the Masons’ basement unfold in nonlinear fashion, keeping the reader on edge while Sylvie bravely uncovers her family’s many secrets. Agent: Joanna Pulcini, Joanna Pulcini Literary Management. (Sept.)
Chris Bohjalian
“Wonderful...A coming of age tale that is poignant and touching...and will scare the living hell out of you. I loved every page of this novel: I loved the sisters and the story and the page-turning mystery. I just may never go downstairs into my basement again.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Searles expertly manages his cleverly conceived plotline as he alternately withholds and doles out key information in tantalizing fashion... Superlative storytelling.”
Jodi Picoult
“I was completely consumed by Help for the Haunted; I read it in one sitting. I just can’t decide what I loved the most: its perfectly pitched teenage narrator; the ghost story that kept me riveted; the thriller that made me say, Oh, just one more chapter.”
Gillian Flynn
“A dazzling, dark portrait of a troubled family beset by the supernatural. Searles ratchets up the tension with every passing chapter, and delivers authentic and well-earned scares—all written through the lens of a lonely teenager searching for answers. The result is a novel both frightening and beautiful.”
Sara Gruen
“A quickly paced and boldly rendered ghost story, Searles’s dark novel about a young girl haunted by the murder of her parents had me up reading all night. And checking the doors. I found it impossible to put down.”
Robert Goolrick
“This is edge-of-your-seat reading of a very high quality, and, be warned, it is seriously spine-tingling.”
“Disturbingly engrossing.”
Khaled Hosseini
“A rich and tense suspense story that serves up plenty of genuine thrills but also moves the reader with elegant insights into the enigma that is Family.”
Miami Herald
“A poignant story of a family, of parents navigating an odd and dangerous career, of daughters shaken by doubt and loss and grief — and the gulf that widens between them all...A compelling mystery.”
New York Newsday
“Involves both classic horror elements (a malevolent rag doll, a stolen diary, a hatchet, a scary basement) and contemporary ones (a prescription for Vicodin). Searles controls the plot with a sure hand and wraps up the situation on Butter Lane in a satisfying and believable way.”
Washington Post
“[Searles] has crafted a strange, spooky world that is absolutely believable. Sweet, precocious, desperate Sylvie is a memorable young striver in the tradition of Scout Finch, and HELP FOR THE HAUNTED is an exceptional piece of storytelling.”
Columbus Dispatch
“Moving and elegantly constructed...both a suspenseful page turner and a provocative look at what it means to be haunted.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“John Searles wrapped a ghost story inside a mystery, and the result is a worthy thriller...HELP FOR THE HAUNTED’s alternating chapters are cleverly split in time to reveal what came before and after a deadly tragedy at the heart of this captivating story.”
Entertainment Weekly
“A masterful genre mash-up that’s part paranormal thriller, part coming-of-age story, part crime fiction, Searles’ eerie novel about a young girl uncovering the mystery of her parents’ murders builds to a stunning and poignant conclusion.”
USA Today
“The family demons are more troubling than the supernatural ones in John Searles’ new novel...Sylvie’s flashbacks and exploration of her mom and dad’s relationship will haunt readers’ hearts after they turn the final page.”
New York Daily News
“[Searles] has a distinct talent for fashioning chilling, thrilling novels.”
Charlotte Observer
“Searles is a top-notch storyteller. He sets a mood of unease that builds up to a sense of dread... It’s hard to stop reading.”
Boston Globe
“The perfect Halloween read for those with a taste for haunted basements, creepy always-smiling dolls, and weirdly dysfunctional families...Searles brings the torture of adolescence, the scourge of notoriety, and the pain of being young and different vividly to the page.”
“Full of terror, totally compelling, believable, and ghostly chilling...The horror that stocks this page-turner is so adroitly grounded in things ordinary and real that the reader almost suspends disbelief and comes to think that maybe there are malevolent spirits out there.”
Statesman Journal (Oregon)
“Creepy, disturbing and compelling, with well-drawn characters, this is gothic suspense at its finest.”
Chicago Magazine
“[HELP FOR THE HAUNTED] is no simple ghost story...As the story zips back and forth through time, it’s rarely clear what’s real and what’s not, though one thing is for sure: The “literal” bedevilment the Masons cast from other houses is nothing compared to what’s in their own.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Heart-thumping...nearly impossible to put down.”
Sarah Gruen
“A quickly paced and boldly rendered ghost story, Searles’s dark novel about a young girl haunted by the murder of her parents had me up reading all night. And checking the doors. I found it impossible to put down.”
Kirkus Reviews
Searles (Boy Still Missing, 2001, etc.) turns in another coming-of-age tale, about a young female protaganist and centered around a possibly occult murder mystery. Sylvie Mason's parents are--or were--"demonologists." Devoutly Christian, her dad zealously worked the lecture circuit while her mom had the talent to soothe the haunted humans who came to them for help. When they are both murdered in a church on a snowy night, 14-year-old Sylvie is the sole witness but doesn't fully remember what happened. In the custody of Rose, her spiteful, rebellious older sister, Sylvie struggles to reconcile her bleak new life with her slightly less-bleak former life. Then, she was always the "good daughter" despite being bullied by Rose and kept in the dark about her parents' career. Now, nearly a year later, she is ostracized by her peers, and the fate of the murder suspect rests in her unsure hands. Searles successfully jumps back and forth in time to let these stories unfold, sewing clues and strange details along the way, the creepiest being a doll named Penny that may be possessed. Slowly, Sylvie breaks out of her good-girl mold to uncover greater truths about her sister, herself and what happened the night of the killing. But for all the time spent uncovering their history, her parents remain murky set pieces, their paranormal abilities and activities never wholly understood. Other pieces of the narrative veer toward overexplanation, but some moments are deftly eerie, and Searles has a knack for building tension; the "haunted" of the title refers as much to Sylvie and her circumstances as to things otherworldly. A somber, well-paced journey, wrapped in a mystery, that will keep readers guessing until the revealing conclusion.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author

John Searles is the author of the bestsellers Boy Still Missing and Strange but True. He appears as a book critic on NBC's Today Show, and his essays have been published in the New York Times and Washington Post. He has a master's degree in creative writing from New York University and lives in New York City.

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Help for the Haunted: A Novel 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 109 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great psychological thriller. I couldn't put it down. I didn't have it all figured out at the end which was nice. The story was told through the eyes of a teenage girl but this was not a children's story.
Lexi More than 1 year ago
A decade ago I read "BOY STILL MISSING", and "STRANGE BUT TRUE", both authored by John Searles. Both were compelling reads because they combined interesting character studies with masterfully presented, suspenseful storylines. The same is true in "HELP FOR THE HAUNTED", but taken to a higher level. I often felt as though I hung suspended between chapters - thinking about something disturbing that I had just read, as I confronted a new disturbing scene in the next chapter - and that made for an exciting, page-turning, stay-up-till-the-middle-of-the-night adventure. You'll never look at a Raggedy Ann doll the same way, ever, and you just might fall in love with Sylvie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I got an advanced readers copy of this back in July, and I've been waiting since then to write a review! I couldn't put this book down. It had me at the edge of my seat (and bed sometimes) wanting to find out what would happen next. Help for the Haunted is one of the best psychological thrillers I've read in a while. I highly reccomend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read, suspenseful!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not what I was expecting! Better actually. I found if very suspenseful. The story is told by a young girl and it is easy to get caught up in her life as she explores the mystery of her parents and their supernatural career. I would recommend it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in 5 days (with a full time job)! This book grabbed by by the arm, pulled me in, and I could not put it down. The characters are interesting. The plot is suspensful, seems clear and then throws in a loop or two changing your view of the story. John Searles is a master!
Icegal74 More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. It is amazing how you wanted the story to go one way, just for it to go another. Very well written. Can't wait to read more from this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best book I have read since Gone Girl. I couldn't put it down. I am now going to read Searle's other works. If you like psychological thrillers, this is the perfect read.
JOMONV More than 1 year ago
Perfect read for October! Strong characters, original story, great writing....what more can you wish for.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really loved this book and will definately read more by this author. I had some goose bumps in parts of it and loved the thriller aspects of it also. Read it in a day! Really a great coming of age read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You get so wrapped up in these characters....I started it at 3 am and didn't stop until 4 pm.....this is a book that will keep you guessing until the end....please read this book.....you'll be happy you did!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not predictable at all with a unique and interesting story line. I enjoyed it and recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lots of energy in this book. The plot twists through several hairpins but never slows down. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wanted to check out the reader reviews before I made the decision to purchase this book. Half the reviews weren't reviews at all but a bunch of ( hopefully) teenage brainless twits using this space for their juvenile dating BS. Grow some brains and actually read some books and stay off review sites while you decide if he likes her or she likes him or if you all want to put your thumbs up your bums. Based on how much I enjoyed the sample, I think I will purchase this book. Spare us from stupid idiots.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like this book. Just started reading it, but it's interesting from the start. Looking forward to the drama and suspense that comes next...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Overall great story! The chapters skipped around in time making it a little confusing at first but easily picked back up. Definitely recommend.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Sibling rivalry, family issues and mystery made for a fantastically creepy book!  Told through the voice of a 14 year old, Sylvie is dealing with the loss of both her parents and she was there when they were killed.  While the present story is being told as they try to bring the killer to justice, a parallel story is being told from Sylvie's childhood up to the killing to provide the reader with all of the insight to this family.  
PamBo56 More than 1 year ago
This wasn't what I expected at all, but still worth the time it took to read it. Whether you believe in ghosts/spirits or not, put this on your reading list. I have two criticisms: The narrator jumps back and forth in time frequently in the telling of her story, and it takes a few sentences to realize that she's changed times. Also, the story is a bit wordy, but not too much that I skimmed over parts. A good ghost story that may or may not be a ghost story!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was excellent. Aside from being well written, the characters and plot line unfolded in a realistic & (cliche as it may be) haunting manner. Looking forward to more from the author!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I never knew which way the story would turn, and trust me, there were many turns. Wonderful!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love the anticipation
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldnt put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not put put this book down, loved the suspense! Great easy read!
LisaDunckley 11 months ago
Sylvie's parents have an unusual career—they help the haunted. They both have a gift for seeing things that are beyond this dimension, and for knowing how to help. Some people don't understand what they do, and some people think what they do is wrong, or even evil. One night Sylvie's parents get a call and go to a church in order to pick up their older daughter, and instead are murdered. Sylvie's sister Rose now takes care of her. When the only suspect in the murder suddenly produces a solid alibi, Sylvie must look deeper into the past and current lives of her family in order to find out what really happened that night. This book is a suspenseful and almost literary tale, it spins out the clues little by little until the surprising ending. While it was enjoyable, it went too slowly in places and doled out the clues at a snail's pace, which made it somewhat uneven in pace.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago