Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Strangers on Montagu Street by Karen White

The Strangers on Montagu Street. Karen White. Penguin Group (USA). November 2011. 352 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9780451235268.

It's 5:15 a.m. and the phone and doorbell are ringing in Melanie's home. While she's used to seeing and hearing voices of dead spirits at all times of the day, she doesn't like the messages she's hearing about listening to her heart. So far she's been guarding her heart quite fiercely, thank you very much. So how surprised is she when Jack, her ex-boyfriend and whom she secretly yearns, is at the door, asking her to house his daughter who has trekked her way to his door after her mother died. Jack never even knew until now that he has a daughter, a surly, angry gal at that!

Several plot elements are happening here which basically involve voices and things violently moving by unknown hands, voices haunting Melanie with incessant messages involving Jack's daughter, Nola, and the mystery behind a Gothic dollhouse temporarily being held at Melanie's mother's house.

Nola's tough exterior doesn't frighten Melanie as they share the experience of abandonment and both search for healing. Their lack of trust frequently complicates the story, a hesitation and cynicism that is quite understandable and can truly only be understood by those who have known the same. As Nola slowly and not without clashes adapts to her father's presence and insistence on his love, she becomes the connection with some very sad and other very angry spirits. She and Melanie's Mom, as well as best friend Sophie and Jack, prompt Melanie to investigate further. Replete with mysterious, dark, and many terror-filled pages, this novel has enough multiple threads to keep the reader riveted and furiously flipping the pages to read faster.

The journey Melanie and Jack shares has a consistent pattern to it. Banter together with a constant edge, followed by a resisted tender moment, followed by a thoughtless or accusatory comment, flight in anger or frustration, and then an appearance where neither acknowledges the previous altercation. Each deeply yearns for and needs the other, but both are battle-shy and ultra-hesitant to go where their heart is indeed directing and suggesting. Passion is frequently waylaid until...

Karen White is a skilled writer deftly crafting a mysterious and fascinating ghost story with romance and a touch of Southern history threaded into its engrossing pages. Well done, Ms. White - I absolutely loved this novel!!!

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