Book Review: HELP FOR THE HAUNTED by John Searles

Publisher: HarperCollins
Released: September 17, 2013
Source: Borrowed from the Library

It begins with a call one snowy February night. Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation: helping “haunted souls” find peace. And yet something in Sylvie senses that this call is different from the others, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church’s red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep, only to wake to the sound of gunfire.

As the story weaves back and forth through the years leading up to that night and the months following, the ever-inquisitive Sylvie searches for answers and uncovers secrets that have haunted her family for years.

Capturing the vivid eeriness of Stephen King’s works and the quirky tenderness of John Irving’s novels, Help for the Haunted is told in the captivating voice of a young heroine who is determined to discover the truth about what happened on that winter night.


I truly loved this book, definitely one of my favorites this year. HELP FOR THE HAUNTED is a suspenseful mystery novel and coming-of-age story in one, and I was so excited to discover that it was set in the 1980s! Fourteen-year-old Sylvie Mason was a curious and complex heroine, and wow, she has an intriguing story to tell.

Whenever the phone rang late at night, I lay in my narrow bed and listened.

Sylvie’s parents help people who are haunted by malevolent spirits, and they’ve become somewhat famous for their unique abilities. Mr. and Mrs. Mason tried to keep Sylvie and her older sister Rose away from their work, but that was impossible to do. Troubled clients and odd paranormal paraphernalia made their way into the Mason home over the years, not to mention the constant phone calls from haunted souls desperate for help. Then one February night, they receive a call that changes everything. The family is led to a small church on that snowy night, and the tragedy that results puts Sylvie on a quest to discover the truth about what really happened.

HELP FOR THE HAUNTED is told from Sylvie’s first person point of view, and it alternates between the time before and after that night at the church. I loved the eerie atmosphere of the story and the puzzling mystery. The author did a fabulous job keeping me guessing about what was really going on. Was it real? Who was telling the truth? Who could Sylvie trust?

I love a book that can pull at my heartstrings and creep me out at the same time, and HELP FOR THE HAUNTED did just that. I know I’ll never look at a Raggedy Ann doll the same way again. Eek!

Rating: 5 Stars