Farrago | 2021 (14 October) | 304p | Review copy | Buy the book
Ghost hunters have never been so busy. The cases are building up for the Rook family but this job should be a quickie. They’ve headed for Coldbay Island, a small island off the coast of Lincolnshire, where they have been hired by the local vicar Grace Barry to rid her church of an angry spirit that likes nothing more than to smash the place up. But Brenda and her son Darryl see such things as they cross the bridge onto the island – ghosts are everywhere they look, sad and lost spirits, far too many for Brenda’s sister Charity to pop out of this realm. The island appears to be deserted of the living and it soon becomes clear that this will be no quick case. Indeed, the Rooks are soon rather concerned that they’re all that stands between the world and the apocalypse.
When I picked up Wish You Weren’t Here, the first in a new series, I had little idea what to expect. I hadn’t read a novel by Gabby Hutchinson Crouch before and I have a bit of a hit and miss relationship with novels of the supernatural. But what a treat I had in store for me. This is an absolute belter of a book! It’s about 300 pages, so all too short and leaves me wanting book 2, but every page counts.
I loved everything about this book. The author introduces us to the Rook family with great skill – Brenda and her husband Richard, their grown children Darryl and Charity, and Darryl’s husband Janusz who looks after the books. Each of these wonderful people feels so real. They have flaws – some a bit more significant (and downright absolutely terrifying) than others. They also have skills. Oddly, perhaps Janusz, the only ‘normal’ one among them, is the most extraordinary because he holds them all together, protecting and loving them, and he is the subject of what I found to be the most terrifying scene of the book.
The setting on this creepy, cold island is fantastic. And that made me accept everything that happens. It’s both realistic and fantastical, thanks to its separation from the mainland of northeast England via that frightening bridge. It’s no wonder the ghosts are depressed.
The writing is fabulous. It’s dark but it is also very funny (the dialogue had me cracking up time after time!). Tragedy lies at the heart of much of its humour. I also found it genuinely frightening and disturbing, despite the Ghostbusters feel of some of it. There is also a sadness surrounding the ghosts as we’re given glimpses of their living past. Wish You Weren’t Here might be short but it contains such a lot.
Wish You Weren’t Here is funny, dark and full of great characters and cameos, whether living, dead or undead. The setting on a creepy island off Lincolnshire seems entirely fitting for a potential apocalypse. This is fabulous writing and it’s quite incredible how much depth, how many full relationships, the author packs into such a short novel. I cannot wait for book 2. This is quite easily one of the best books I’ve had the pleasure of reading this year and is perfect for a spooky October read!