Monday, May 22, 2023

Review: The Suffering by MJ Mars

by MJ Mars
Release Date: February 24, 2023
2023 Wicked House Publishing
Kindle Edition; 382 Pages
ISBN: 978-1959798064
Genre: Fiction / Horror / Paranormal
Source: Review copy from publsiher
3.5 / 5 Stars
Recreating the séance that led to the infamous Victorian Suffering massacre seems like a good idea at the time. But Kyle Birbeck soon discovers that the ghosts his distant ancestor banished into the walls of Brackenby House in 1876 have been lurking, waiting for a chance to come out.

One by one the 5 terrifying ghosts latch onto each of the students who reside at Brackenby, preying on their deepest fears. They soon come to realise it isn’t Brackenby House that’s haunted. They are. And the ghosts will stop at nothing to continue The Suffering…
My Thoughts
The Suffering has everything that I love in a horror/paranormal novel; a spooky house with a chilling history, a seance that didn't quite work the way it was intended, ghosts, secrets, and so on. I enjoyed the overall story as it was interesting and the descriptions did manage to keep up a certain level of tension.  I did like the ghosts as well the action surrounding them, but felt it got bogged down by the author using lack of communication and secrets to move a plot point along which just made me shake my head.

Kyle and his friends live in a Victorian house that has been in his family for a very long time. Despite the sordid background and the tragedy that occurred there, the five students are overjoyed to be living in something that is cheaper than the usual student accommodations, and decide to have a seance on Halloween. Okay, this I totally buy as college students do silly things all the time and even I played around with this kind of stuff when I was younger. Unfortunately, they do release something horrifying and five ghosts attach themselves to the five of them feeding off of their self-doubts.  I did find this interesting in the beginning and liked what was happening, even if I didn't find it very terrifying. This could be my fault though as I went in thinking it would be scarier than it was, but it wasn't.  
Things kind of went sideways for me about one-third into the book as I got tired of the lack of communication between the characters and the big secrets.  Kyle wasn't very forthcoming with information and I just couldn't figure out why he wouldn't tell the others where he had been and why.  And why would he not have brought back protection charms for the rest of them?  And when things did start happening, why would you not call the police to check things out to make sure there were not pranks happening? And when things ramp up, do the kids try to split and run? No, not really. I would have been out of there in a flash.  
While the author can write, and there were definitely some interesting moments, I don't feel like I really got to know the characters very well. To me, they were pretty bland and I wish the story had focused on one of them rather than all of them as it would have added depth to the story.  I did like hearing about the ghosts, but the characters and their foolish decisions kind of pushed that to the background regularly and I found myself jolted out of the story.  It made me focus on the plot holes and lack of character growth a bit more than I normally would have.  
The Suffering had a lot of potential and I did enjoy the story, especially the parts where the ghosts were involved.  I did feel the characters were one-dimensional and bland, and their lack of communication and decision-making skills got on my nerves after a while.  There really wasn't anything particularly spooky about this book, but there were a lot of fun elements, so I would definitely pick up another novel by this author in the future.