The Bickersons Meet the Ghost
“The Lady in Red”
by Mark Campbell, 2019
Here we have the story of a British family and the ghost that torments them. After meeting the Stanley family, we realize that young Paul Stanley has been possessed by the ghost of a 18th Century graverobber-cum-murderer, Jack Farley. Soon, Paul is beating his chums to a bloody pulp. Eventually, others become possessed as well. In flashbacks, we see Jack and his reluctant partner, Will, conducting a Burke & Hare type business, supplying “fresh” bodies to medical schools.
Fortunately, another ghost, the titular lady in red, steps up to combat the dastardly doings of Jack Farley. But will her desire for revenge be enough to save the Stanleys?
I do love the little British words and phrases peppered throughout, giving the story a sense of place. Campbell masters this whether we are in the current day or 1831.
The plot is decent. The writing is good. There are hardly any punctuation or spelling problems.
However, these characters do get worked up over the least thing. It's like they waiting to pounce on any excuse to start an argument. Once they start in, they're like pit bulls, never letting go. Geoff, the father, upon hearing a snippet of what caused Paul to get in trouble, jumps up and goes on for long paragraphs of theory and conjecture, proving to himself exactly why his son acted the way he did. When the mom finally gets a word in edgewise, she has to explain that he's completely wrong. Scenes like that abound throughout, spoken by virtually every character. If they would just stop cutting each other off, they might actually learn what's going on.
When Paul beats up one of his playmates, his mother, a teacher no less, is aghast at the principal for daring to accuse any child of hers of such a thing. This from a woman who would have heard such unrighteous indignation from people with poor parenting skills any number of times. You'd think she would at least be willing to hear out the Principal—who is her boss, after all.
My point is, that these characters and their contentiousness are annoying as all get-out and it takes them forever to get to the important parts. If it was just one character, I would write him off as a jerk, but Campbell fills his world with people like this.
Taking out half the dialog would greatly improve the book. All the back-and-forth bickering really detracts from the story—which is actually pretty good.
That's my only real complaint, however. There's a legitimately scary scene towards the ending where two of the boys are reunited, and the ending seems fitting.
I was given a copy of the book by the author. No promise of remuneration was made or implied.