Carfax House by Shani Struthers. Review

Carfax House is not your usual run of the mill ghost story, but then Shani Struthers is not your usual run of the mill author. Set in the desolate winter landscape of the Leicestershire countryside, Carfax House sits alone in its overgrown, briar tangled acres. Neglected for too long, the big house has fallen into disrepair and is badly in need of more than a little TLC.

Step in, Lizzie and Al, a London journalist married to a criminal lawyer who see an opportunity on a property website. Sure, the old house will need some work and it will cost, but with the money they can get from selling their nicely appointed London apartment and their combined incomes, they should be able to afford to restore the old house to something close to its former glory. Besides, Lizzie thinks to herself, what woman wouldn’t want to saunter down that beautiful open staircase wearing a designer creation to the wide-eyed acclaim of her party guests?

So, the flat is sold and the deal is done. Carfax House, bought unseen, awaits their arrival.I won’t go into too much detail of the story as I don’t want to spoil it for future readers but what I will say is that Carfax House has great depth and tackles issues that other authors steer well clear of. As I said earlier, this is not a run of the mill ghost story, it is a story of loss, of isolation, of desperate emotions.

Carfax House is all about memories. The repressed memory of childhood, dreadful memories of a shameful family secret that a mother and daughter weave a web of lies to attempt to hide, and the memories of an old house, memories that are baked into the bricks and mortar. Memories that make the floorboards creak, memories hidden behind a small but strong, oak door built into the walls of bedroom six.

You will be able to read this one in bed without scaring yourself silly. It’s not that kind of book, but by the time you reach the end, you will have been so eloquently informed about the brutality of mental illness and how it was endured by two families born a hundred years apart. This book gets a well-deserved five-star rating from me. I lost myself in this short novel for a few hours, reading it in one session, broken only by my need to fuel my long-standing coffee addiction.

T. A. Belshaw.  Dec 31st.  2021

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