horror · REVIEW TIME · Reviews

Review: Ghoster by Jason Arnopp

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Twitter connections are GREAT, aren’t they?

Having seen Behind Her Eyes author, Sarah Pinborough tweet her recommendation for Jason Arnopp’s Ghoster led me to discover his work when I treated myself to a copy of his chilling thriller The Last Day of Jack Sparks (review to come).

Fast forward a few weeks and Monday at work was brightened by the arrival of an ARC of Ghoster, courtesy of Orbit Books. I mean, Mondays are shit (unless you’re one of those beetroot juice-drinking hipsters who sees the start of a new week as a blessing, yeah okay Sandra, good for you, I’m about to spend my Monday getting my arse kicked by retail buyers young enough to be my daughter, but yeah, you drink your juice and be SUPER positive about the worst day of the week) but, it’s a well-known fact that ANY day gets better when books are involved. Receive a book gift and you can totally live your best life… yes, EVEN ON A MONDAY.

Sarah Pinborough said on Ghoster: ‘The best cross-genre thriller I’ve read in a long, long time. Twisty, creepy and absolutely absorbing.’ Mention twisty and creepy and I’m definitely in. And if that wasn’t enough to hook me, here’s the blurb:

Kate Collins has been ghosted.

She was supposed to be moving in with her new boyfriend Scott, but all she finds after relocating to Brighton is an empty flat. Scott has vanished. His possessions have all disappeared.

Except for his mobile phone.

Kate knows she shouldn’t hack into Scott’s phone. She shouldn’t look at his Tinder, his calls, his social media. But she can’t quite help herself.

That’s when the trouble starts. Strange, whispering phone calls from numbers she doesn’t recognise. Scratch marks on the walls that she can’t explain.

And the growing feeling that she’s being watched . . .

I was already familiar with Jason Arnopp’s love for connecting our obsession with social media and the paranormal, after reading Jack Sparks and was intrigued by his use of this theme again in Ghoster. If any of you out there have recently watched the Netflix documentary The Great Hack, as I have, then books like Ghoster will be right up your street. Strangely, the premise of the book seems an almost credible one. We’re already discovering the real-life dangers of our mad obsession with all things online, from the risks of stalking and online bullying, to the illegal practices of political parties and global giants like Facebook to abuse user data to rig elections that effect us on an international scale. So, what happens when you connect a paranormal element to our use of social media? The possibilities are endless. And scary, really properly scary.

It might seem a bit mad, but I’ve got to be honest, it REALLY didn’t take me long to start side-eyeing my phone suspiciously. That night, after reaching two-thirds of the way through the book, I found myself sweeping my iPhone torchlight into the shadowy corners of the bedroom. I was convinced something was there. Were the shadows darker than usual? Were they moving? And what the FUCK was that noise? Yep. It was totally THAT kind of book paranoia. It’s been a long time since I was utterly freaked out by a book to this extent.

Everything about what happens to the protagonist, Kate Collins seems eerily possible and I believe it’s because we can all identify to some extent with her own obsession with social media. We can’t go out for a meal these days without checking our phones throughout. We can’t eat anything without zapping an Insta-pic of it first. We can’t go to a gig without recording our favourite song and posting it to FB. We can’t seem to get through a day without trying to find something funny to tweet about. It’s everywhere and I’ll admit to being slightly jealous of those out there who are able to log out and switch off their phones. After reading Ghoster, I’ll challenge you not to at least think of taking a break or weaning yourself off your online obsessions. I know I did.

The story-telling of Ghoster is compelling in a creepily, convincing way. Drawing you in through a series of present-time action, flashbacks and text dialogue, the author subtly and deftly pulls you into a very twisted web of suspicion, disbelief and doubt until you feel as if you are living Kate’s nightmare with her.

Kate herself, *might not* be instantly likeable to all (although I was a bit in love with her and rooting for her throughout, while simultaneously shouting at her through the pages and telling her to run for the hills). She has a honesty about her I adored, but that some readers might find a little abrasive (she’s a self-confessed social media addict, she talks candidly about what she wants from her Tinder dates, she’s reckless and doesn’t exactly make the best decisions) but scratch below the surface of some solid self psycho analysis and I think many readers might admit they find Kate’s narration a little uncomfortable because she epitomises that side of ourselves we don’t always like very much. Simply put, these days, in our social-media-obsessed world, I think there’s a little bit of Kate in all of us. For me, this a huge reason why I think the story works so well and why it has you thinking of weighing down your phone in a bag of bricks gangster-style and dumping it into the nearest canal.

Arnopp successfully leads us through Kate’s nightmare, ramping up the tension and creep-factor with each page. The story is a fabulously addictive mix of contemporary prose and just the right amount of old-school horror that makes me wonder if this is the type of book that the likes of James Herbert and Richard Laymon would have written if they were still with us today.

Ghoster, for me, is a perfect example of contemporary horror writing, hitting hard and playing up to our fears, both real and subconscious. This is the type of book that doesn’t just get under your skin, it creeps under it and once there, it will stay with you for days after.

Five out of five for this exceptionally creepy thriller, Ghoster.

**Thanks goes to Nazia from Orbit Books and Jason Arnopp for the ARC**

 

 

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