Friday, 8 November 2013

Review - The Hunting Ground by Cliff McNish

The Hunting Ground

Goodreads description: When Elliott and his brother move into the old and crumbling Glebe House they don't expect to find themselves sharing it with ghosts. But soon sinister events are unfolding. An old diary reveals glimpses of the mansion's past - and of a terrible tragedy. An old woman talks to ghosts - but is she in fact being controlled by them? And what of the sinister East Wing - a hideous labyrinth devised by a truly twisted mind? Can Elliott and his family escape the clutches of Glebe House? Or will they end up trapped in the endless maze of corridors, forever hunted by the dead?

A creepy mansion with a tragic past not quite buried and an evil presence in the corridors… Cliff McNish tells a classic ghost story which proves that some things never fail to send chills down the spine, and sometimes, traditional ghost stories work best.

When siblings, Ben and Elliott, move into an old estate, they don’t expect their sleep to be disturbed by strange noises, nor the corridors to be filled with creepy paintings of the previous owner standing over the corpses of hunted animals.

They find a diary written by a girl who lived in the house several generations earlier. She describes her conversations with a mysterious girl who could apparently talk to ghosts – and there is a hint that the ghost of the former occupant of the house isn’t a friendly one. Then there’s the forbidden, labyrinthine East Wing, which seems to have caught Ben’s attention. It isn’t long before the ghosts reveal themselves, and the hunting game begins…

Tense and scary, The Hunting Ground is a fantastic ghost story that keeps you on edge throughout, wanting to find out what happens yet scared to turn the page and face each new horror.  The title pretty much gives away the plot, yet knowing immediately that Elliott and Ben are going to be hunted by a psychotic ghost doesn’t compromise the narrative tension in the slightest. The ghosts are sinister and the spooky atmosphere is well-crafted. The gothic trope of a supposedly safe and secure place, the home, as being transformed into a place of terror, works extremely well. The inclusion of the diary entries builds tension as the narrative shifts from a ghost story to a tense thriller as the new hunting game begins again.

I’ve not read any of McNish’s work before, but when I met him at Lancaster Litfest (and got this particular book signed), I was interested on his thoughts on the Gothic in Young Adult fiction. For McNish, the Gothic is about what scares us, and he writes for the ‘monsters’ – and I’d definitely say he does a good job!

Rating: ****


  1. Great review! I love ghost stories like this, so I think I'll need to check this book out sometime...

  2. I'm not such a fan of Gothic, but I love a good haunted house story! You made this one sound very exciting and scary - and now I want to read it. Great review! :-)

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