by David L. Golemon
Review by Katie Carmien
Thomas Dunne Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250105233
Date: 18 October 2016 List Price $26.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Summer Place looks like the perfect mansion, but looks are far from the truths. A series of brutal deaths and unexplained incidents have kept it empty for years, entered only by caretakers who refuse to stay after dark. When Professor Gabriel Kennedy and a team of students attempt to uncover the mystery once and for all, tragedy strikes them too, killing a student and leaving Gabriel disgraced.
Six years later, enter Kelly Delaphoy, producer of the hit reality TV show Hunters of the Paranormal. She wants to broadcast live from Summer Place on Halloween night--and she wants Gabriel to host. Gabriel demands that he pick his own team, gathering the best operatives he can, and Kelly is just focused on ratings. But Summer Place has other plans....
Normally, I start reviews with praise, but this time I unfortunately need to start off with a criticism. This book almost immediately shoots itself right in the foot by saying that Shirley Jackson based The Haunting of Hill House off her stay in Summer Place. Now, if you're calling Shirley Jackson to the mat, you'd better be prepared to deliver times ten--and The Supernaturals was not prepared. What would have been frightening if I hadn't been invited to compare it to the scares in Hill House ended up coming off lackluster.
This was a shame, because I really liked the premise--the idea of a fake ghost hunting team running into real ghosts isn't new, but the author puts a fresh spin on it. Likewise, I liked Gabriel and also Kelly Delaphoy and her unapologetic ambition. I especially enjoyed reading about her and how her team was setting up the house to get the best frightening effects regardless of whether any actually happened. Actually, that's where the book really shines, in its depiction of what's really going on behind the scenes of the ghost-hunting reality TV show and the banter between characters, although out of the team, Kelly and Gabriel shine the most.
Speaking of the team, I must note that the Native American character gets pigeonholed as the wise and spiritual one--he's a dreamwalker. And this isn't the only place the book falls into stereotypes. Although I must avoid spoilers, one of the ghosts is either a trans woman or a transvestite--the narrative isn't particularly clear, but manages to call on the boogeyman of the oh-so-scary "predatory trans woman" either way. That removed any chance of the book being scary for me, because I was just annoyed at the lazy offensiveness of it.
Ultimately, The Supernaturals puts itself at a disadvantage with several easily avoidable missteps. Readers may still enjoy it, however, if they liked haunted house novels and horror stories where the protagonists come out on top.