Jonathan Janz’s The Siren and the Specter: a review

Jonathan Janz doesn’t just write characters, he creates people. You meet these people in the first few chapters, get to know them and find something about them to like. By the time the chips are on the table and all bets are off, you’re white knuckling the paperback and realizing you’re going to have to set your alarm clock a little later for the morning because you just can’t put the book down.

The Siren and the Specter tells the story of a writer named David Caine, a lifelong skeptic of the supernatural who is invited to check out the Alexander House, which is hailed as the oldest haunted house in Virginia. Caine has written a number of books on haunted America and has yet to find anything that has kept him up at night.

David’s longtime friend Chris owns the alleged haunted home and the supernatural author offers his time as a favor to his pal, who David believes is just trying to muster up some interest in the property for a profitable sale. David will be spending thirty days in the home and there’s little doubt in Caine’s mind that things will go status quo here like it has at every other spooky home he’s slept in. However, once David enters the home, it doesn’t take long before he is hearing odd noises and chasing a beautiful woman in the shadows. David’s been able to debunk numerous haunted houses in his day, but this one is different. Very different.

Janz’s novel mixes atmosphere, creeps and light-hearted dialogue seamlessly with some really satisfying plot twists. The folklore, as well as the character development, in the novel are exceptionally fleshed out. This should really come as no surprise though as Janz is head and shoulders above most authors when it comes to creating a story that people can invest in. Put it together and what have you got? One awesome ghost novel.

Another aspect of a well-crafted ghost story is the element of uncertainty regarding the protagonist’s sanity. David is a likable guy and it’s easy to side with him as things start to unravel in the Alexander House, but still… is it really happening or is it all in his head?

The novel is well-paced throughout, until the last chunk of the story when the horrors of the haunted house tear through David’s life at a breakneck pace, leaving the reader wishing the book never ended.

As a fan of the genre himself, Janz gets it. He writes horror for horror fans and he doesn’t cheat the audience. Every book I’ve read of his ratchets up the tension just a little more but this may be his best work yet.

I want to tell you more. I want to go into detail about all the things I absolutely loved about this book. But I can’t. This is a spoiler-free zone, folks. This is a novel I can’t recommend highly enough and I suggest you pick up a copy as quickly as possible.

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