Title: The Hunting Ground
Genre: Thriller/ Ghost (YA)
Published: Feb 2012
Source: kindly sent for review by the publisher
Find it at Goodreads or Amazon UK
When Elliott and his brother move into the old and crumbling Glebe House they don't expect to find themselves sharing it with ghosts. But soon sinister events are unfolding. An old diary reveals glimpses of the mansion's past - and of a terrible tragedy. An old woman talks to ghosts - but is she in fact being controlled by them? And what of the sinister East Wing - a hideous labyrinth devised by a truly twisted mind? Can Elliott and his family escape the clutches of Glebe House? Or will they end up trapped in the endless maze of corridors, forever hunted by the dead?
My verdict: creepy, chilling – a classic ghost thriller.
I read this in a day, because I started it on the way to work, continued on the way home and snuck away to finish it before dinner so that I would be able to comfortably go to bed. This is not a book for the very young (and I wouldn’t recommend it at bedtime, either!). It’s no gory horror, but it is excruciatingly tense. Cliff McNish is a skilful craftsman who knows how to manipulate the tension level and keep you guessing – there is a mystery element to this novel as well.
As the blurb shows, the novel focuses on the two boys whose father has been engaged to develop the house. Things happen that they can’t (or won’t) explain, and then they find pages of an old diary which make them curious about the house’s history even while they’re starting to actually fear there may be real ghosts. The family is characterised skilfully, and it is easy to root for them, although at the beginning you may find yourself willing them to leave the house before things get worse. But of course, they don’t know they’re in a ghost story so don’t believe they’re in real danger initially!
As with all good gothic and ghost stories, the setting really is a character in this novel. Twisting corridors, forbidden areas, creepy paintings (way beyond ‘normal’ creepy paintings, by the way) all contribute to the rising fear. There is a real sense of restriction, of being trapped and controlled by the house, which contrasts strongly with the paintings on the walls, showing outdoor scenes of hunting, and with the expansive grounds.
In all, this is a strong ghostly thriller that will definitely have you over-analysing every little sound in the dark.