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Publisher's Summary

In this tantalizing tale of Victorian ghost stories and family secrets, timid, solitary librarian Gerard Freeman lives for just two things: his elusive pen pal Alice and a story he found hidden in his mother's drawer years ago.

Written by his great-grandmother Viola, it hints at his mother's role in a sinister crime. As he discovers more of Viola's chilling tales, he realizes that they might hold the key to finding Alice and unveiling his family's mystery - or will they bring about his untimely death, as they seem to foretell?

Harwood's astonishing, assured debut shows us just how dangerous family skeletons - and stories - can be.

©2013 John Harwood; 2013 Blackstone Audiobooks

What listeners say about The Ghost Writer

Average Customer Ratings
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A modern master of the Gothic

In 2004, I took "The Ghost Writer" on a long, dreaded flight. By the time the plane landed, I knew I would be reading everything Harwood published for the rest of my life.

Listening to Simon Vance's performance was such a treat. It's like when you listen to a piece of music and love it on an emotional level, then listen again to find the deeper structure and beauty. "The Ghost Writer" is all the more impressive ten years after.

Harwood plays fair and respects his reader. All the clues are there but he expects you to pay attention and think things through. His foreshadowing is subtle and well-timed. There is no dumping of information or meaningless backstory, and every scene contributes to the advancement of the plot. His writing is masterful, and as a poet, some of his imagery is arresting, but his prose never calls attention to itself. Add to that compelling characters and layers of intriguing mysteries waiting to be solved, and you've got a writer worth reading every time.

In a world of overwritten, self-conscious twaddle we are told is "literature," modern masters like Harwood shine all the more brightly. He provides everything I read fiction for and I hope he will continue to write novels for many years to come.

34 people found this helpful

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Ghostly Cornucopia

If you're looking for a good ghost story for the Halloween season, this one is a good bet. Allusions to creepy literary spinsters—Henry James's Miss Jessel and Dickens's Miss Havisham—create the atmosphere for this gothic suspense novel.

The protagonist grows up in Australia with a mother who refuses to speak about the details of her childhood in England. As he grows older, he becomes increasingly curious about his mother's reasons for leaving England and her reluctance to talk about her past. He returns to England and begins to piece together what might have happened, discovering short ghost stories written by his great-grandmother, Viola. These wonderfully spooky tales, filled with supernatural occurrences and séances, are interwoven into the main narrative and offer tantalizing clues about the family's history.

The narrative can get a bit confusing at times, as we jump between Viola's stories and the protagonist's life, something that probably is a bit more of a challenge in the audio format. One must pay close attention to keep the characters straight or be prepared to rewind in order to keep track of the story--I had to rewind several times but actually welcomed the chance to do so because I really didn't want the book to end. The ending makes perfect sense but you really have to think about it. Happy hauntings!

11 people found this helpful

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Spellbinding... left something to be be desired.

There was so much about this novel that I absolutely loved. I spent most of the novel awestruck at the well entangled composition. Like many other reviews, the last chapter left me feeling incomplete. I read and reread it and finally drew my own conclusions. The ending didn't by any means ruin the rest of this spellbinding novel. I would still highly recommend it.

11 people found this helpful

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Riveting!

I couldn’t stop listening! I was guessing until the end and still hadn’t figured it out until the reveal. Simon Vance is the best narrator I’ve ever heard. The transition to different characters is seamless and at no time did I think “Oh! This is a man doing a woman’s voice!” I think his accent work is beyond excellent. I would listen to a book just because he narrates it.

6 people found this helpful

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Had me guessing until the very end

What did you love best about The Ghost Writer?

A unique twist on the classic genre.

Any additional comments?

This is a great story. Interesting characters and great twist at the end.

4 people found this helpful

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ARE YOU SERIOUS?

Very confusing but I stuck with it and little by little gained some understanding of what was being told. It was a continuous struggle. Never had a firm hold on the plot....AND THE END!!!! Suffice to say I like to know how things turn out when I invest hours in a book and I don't have a clue how things finally came together.....or didnt....I'll remember to steer clear of this author.

3 people found this helpful

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Slow burn, thrilling end

My first John Harwood was The Seance, which was quite a page turner. This book was a much slower burn, but so, so worth it. The full horror of the protagonist's situation dawns slowly but surely. Such a twist at the end. Highly recommend.

3 people found this helpful

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unwrap 5 stand alone ghost stories nesting in one

Loaded with pivotal plot twist, intellectually stimulating. a unique approach, it was concurrently a feeling of authentically classic gothic ghost story genre and fresh unpredictable realizations as pieces of the puzzle fall seamlessly into place. the visuals were poignant. the suspense building intense. the mystery seasoned to perfection with just a dash of deliciously scary, (sleeping with the lights on for a month) in all the right places. A story I will not ever forget I have read. Brilliant narration! Very Spooky!

2 people found this helpful

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Rough

Good story, very confusing and strange but ties it all together in the end.

1 person found this helpful

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Interesting story, requires your attention.

This isn’t one of those books you can space out while listening to and still understand what’s going on. I couldn’t anyway. Worth the listen.

1 person found this helpful

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Profile Image for barjil
  • barjil
  • 07-07-14

Disappointing

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I was so looking forward to this book, having loved 'The Asylum'. But I found 'The Ghost Writer' almost impossible to finish with its extraordinary mixture of gothic fantasy and supposedly real life. I plodded on till the end because I felt that the whole thing must eventually come together and I suppose in a way it did, but I was left feeling it had been a total waste of time. I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

What will your next listen be?

'The Killer Next Door'!

What does Simon Vance bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Simon Vance is an excellent reader but I think that even his skill couldn't save the book; maybe it worked better on the page

Do you think The Ghost Writer needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

NO! See above.

4 people found this helpful

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  • M.D Odell
  • 07-07-14

A complex and frightening little chiller

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Because it does what horror should do. It is scary, chilling and effortlessly gothic.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The narrator probably. A relatable narrator who manages to tell a great ghost story while still having great character is something even M.R James struggled with on occasion.

What about Simon Vance’s performance did you like?

His accent is a touch odd at first, but then as the book goes on you realise just how versatile a performer he is, bringing chills and a unique perspective on each character.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The ending, and the way each of the ghost stories played out. But a good horror book is measured by how well it pulls off it's big 'twist'. You may think you see this one coming, but you don't. You REALLY don't.

Any additional comments?

It's a great slide of modern gothic with ingeniously intertwined stories. The epilogue is perhaps more abrupt than I would like, but this is a skilfully written and frightening novel.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Norma Miles
  • 02-21-22

"My questing knight."

This reader is not a fan of ghost of horror stories usually, but something drew me to this book: probably because it was read by Simon Vance, whose narration I always appreciate. But also the title, Ghost Writer, with the concept of one author writing another's story. And this was the perfect title for a truly creepy book.
Gerard Freeman is the only child of an over protective mother, growing up in the 1960s in Mawson, Australia.When he was very little, his mother Phyllis used to tell him takes of Staplefield, the family home in England where she grew up but this stopped completely after Gerard found an old photo of a beautiful young woman hidden behind a drawer. Later the boy also finds an old magazine containing a Short story written, it would appear, by his great grandmother, Viola Hatherley, and becomes the ardent pen friend of a girl in England. As Gerard grows into adulthood, it becomes obvious that his mother is concealing a secret, one so terrifying to her, she fears for their lives. And it has to do with their family history about which she will say nothing.

Written in the first person from Gerard's perspective, but interspersed with four short stories written in a different hand by Viola, as well as other person letters, diary entries and email, this fascinating story draws the reader into the troubled Gothic past of his family history as well as his ongoing desire to find, not only his mother's real and hidden background but also to finally meet his corresponding English friend, Alice. A little pinch of suspending disbelief is needed, especially in the earlier chapters,
despite some flaws, this remains one of the only haunting stories that I have found truly invasive and frightening in the same way that I was affected by the Turn of the Screw, by Henry James. All was, as expected, impeccably performed by Simon Vance.

I downloaded this book for free as part of the Audible Plus programme. Thank you, Audible. Very enjoyable.

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  • Emma
  • 02-19-22

On the whole, I very much enjoyed this listen.

I very much enjoyed the stories within stories. They were detailed and enthralling, quite like listening to a completely different story. The movie Inception springs to mind.
On the negative side, there were so many details and twists that I struggled to keep up at times and found myself rewinding more than once.
I had a feeling that I knew the ending about half way through, the ending, however, was a disappointment. I should have liked another chapter, I rather like things to be tied up in a neat little bow.... I didn't get that here.
The narration was good and I enjoyed listening, there are some books that I stop minutes into beginning because I cannot bear the narrator's voice, this was not the case here.
As I said above, overall I enjoyed the stories but a definite conclusion would have earned my 5 stars.

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  • Frank Coles
  • 02-16-22

An unexpected pleasure

I started this book thinking, like so many audiobooks, that it was going to be corny and hammy. However, it pulled me in to its murky depths. The story winds and weaves like a dream. A story within a story within a story, each anxious strand pulls you in a little deeper to the unravelling nightmare.

Simon Vance’s narration is excellent, subtle characterisation and voices with a knack for accents throughout.

If you enjoy MR James or Bram Stoker style fiction this is like an extended, more modern, take on that. Thoroughly satisfying.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Stephen
  • 02-16-22

Goodness me…

I have to write more than just ‘goodness me’ but I think that sums up my thoughts.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mj
  • 02-10-22

loved it

the narration is excellent
the story is excellent

a little waffle but yep I like this!

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for Merlin The Happy Pig
  • Merlin The Happy Pig
  • 02-09-22

A compelling mystery in the Gothic tradition

I really enjoyed this dark tale of family secrets. I particularly liked the ghost stories interspersed throughout. In this respect it reminded me of The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton and The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Read alongside the central plot I thought that they helped to enrich the story. Although as many reviewers have commented I would have happily read them in a stand alone anthology of ghost stories, as they work equally well on their own. The narration was excellent. Simon Vance's nuanced interpretation of a wide variety of characters was second to none. My only criticism of the book was that the ending was a little rushed and ambiguous. However as this was a story that I was thinking about for some time afterwards I have only knocked off one star. All in all I found it deliciously creepy and engrossing.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • TrickstersDaughter
  • 02-04-22

Absolutely first class narration and great story

I wasn’t so sure about this in the opening 10 minutes but thereafter I was in the flow of the story. Simon Vance is a master narrator with such an incredible range of vocal talents that you feel totally immersed into any story he reads, and this was first John Harwood, and I have now just downloaded The Asylum as well.
I loved the collections of mini ghost stories interwoven in the book, and the wonderful supernatural catfishing of this unusual tale.
Very much enjoyed and thoroughly recommend to those who love a little suspense, like a ghost story and have a fondness for the gothic.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for Rob_C-T_Tipton
  • Rob_C-T_Tipton
  • 02-01-22

Very Disappointing & Extremely Confusing

I wish I had taken notice of the other reviews.

I found this audiobook to be very disappointing. The story was extremely confusing. It kept leaping from one theme to another.

I persisted listening until the end. The end however was totally predictable. I actually wished I’d have given up, and moved on to another audiobook.

The only plus point is that Simon Vance is a great narrator. However, even his performance can’t increase my scoring in this review.