Quirky, accomplished and a great deal of fun, The Supernatural Enchancements is a solid, unusual novel.
The premise of the story is the protagonist (known only as A) inherits the American estate "Axton House" following the death of his second cousin "Uncle" Ambrose, whom A had never met or even knew of. So A sets of from blighty with his friend Niamh — a mute teenager. The house itself, an old, mysterious and rambling mansion of a building with a long reputation - was supposed to come with a Butler, but he has disappeared following his employers death. Uncle Ambrose' death (which has been marked as a suicide) also holds a deal of mystery. Not only did Ambrose leap from a closed window on the houses second story, its an exact copy of his fathers death, carried out at the exact same age and from the very same closed window.
Niamh and A decide to try and solve at least some of these many mysteries, beginning with how Ambrose really died and if the rumours of Axton House being haunted are true.
I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from The Supernatural Enchancements, I tend to stay clear of novels that mention the word supernatural for fear of the book turning into a "paranormal romance". Thankfully, this is nothing of the kind — although the relationship between A and Niamh is quite an intriguing one. It's not entirely clear for most of the novel, just what the relationship is between these two people, although things become clearer towards the end. Not knowing who the central protagonist is adds to the air of mystery. The entire novel plays with mystery, that of Axton House — the history and the strange goings on, Uncle Ambrose, his unusual death and connections to secret societies and of course mystery as to who the protagonists are.
The structure of the novel is based on A's diary and letters to "Aunt Liza", an inscrutable figure who's perplexity peaks right at the end. This format works well, especially so given that one of the two protagonists is mute and has to write down her conversations. There is a pleasant juxtapostion of styles — A writes more formally, almost old-fashioned while Niamh writes as a mature, post-punk teenager. The book is set in the mid-90's and is a welcome distraction from 21st century technology (the internet is still young and "smart" is limited to dress-sense and intellect).
The writing is confident and friendly while the pace is set just right. The many levels of mystery really do draw you in and are revealed at just the right moments to keep the interest level high. The interplay between the characters is superb, both supporting each other with their own strengths. The momentum picks up as the story progresses and the ending is just perfect — very well played by the author.
The Supernatural Enchancements is wildly different to most books I've read, it's got a real charm that mixes old and new, mystery and marvel with a strong story and even stronger characters. The cover advertises the book as "The most addictive thriller of the year" and I have to agree, you will be hard pressed to find more fulfilling entertainment anywhere.
Written on 10th August 2015 by Ant.
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