RELEASE DATE: 13th Oct 2011
FORMAT: Paperback, 405 pages
Arriving in the Scottish highlands, Martin and Sue decide to escape their luxury hotel, heading out for a night of back-to-basics living in an abandoned shack. When a storm strikes, they find themselves stranded. As gentle bickering leads to violent arguments, Sue starts to sense they are not alone. (Goodreads)
THE HAUNTED by Niki Valentine is a horror novel set in the wilderness of Scotland, with a couple on a second honeymoon to celebrate their ten year anniversary.
Susie and Martin are a seemingly normal middle class couple, a social worker and a teacher respectively who have decided to visit the Scottish location of Fort William for their second honeymoon. At the opening of the book their holiday is going perfectly, with the hotel catering to their needs and them getting to spend time together without their work lives getting in the way.
However, events begin to take a turn for the worse when Martin suggests that they go trekking through the countryside to a bothy that he visited with his parents in his childhood. Susie is apprehensive about this journey, especially when Martin says they don’t need to tell anyone at the hotel where they’re going as they’ll only be gone for a couple of days. She fights her negative feelings and soldiers on through the harsh Scottish terrain, with Martin right by her side to help her. Surely she’ll be safe with her husband?
After almost drowning in a river, Susie’s fear that coming to the hut was a bad idea is confirmed, and she wants to return to the hotel almost immediately. They spend one night together in the hut, with Susie intending to trek back to the hotel in the morning, but the river they crossed to arrive has risen and there is no way back across. She is trapped at the bothy with Martin, which at first seems romantic but soon becomes everything she’s ever feared.
His character starts to change, becoming more violent and snappy with his wife, and it was clear that he was harbouring an abusive side. Susie can still see glimpses of the man she married, but his whole personality is changing, making her think that the hut is to blame. She knows that his parent’s marriage fell apart when they came to this same place, and Susie has always been more attuned to her spiritual side. When their belongings get misplaced and she sees the silhouette of a man who isn’t her husband she begins to think the bothy is haunted, and that maybe Martin is possessed as he couldn’t really want to hurt her…
I had many problems with this book, but the main problem I had was the characters. Susie was an annoying main character who I really wanted to slap across the face and tell to run away as fast as she could, as when parts of her history are revealed it just makes you ask why she’s with Martin at all. For one there are the recurring references to children, as her husband never wanted any but it is clear that Susie did, no matter what she says to the contrary. The most significant reason, however, are the frequent references to ‘that weekend’, and even before the full story is revealed it is obvious that Martin has been abusive to her before.
I wanted to see Susie as a victim because of the abuse she’d suffered, but the nature of her character just made me see her as stupid for not running away after ‘that weekend’. I think the author had tried not to make her into a victim of domestic abuse, but from what goes on inside Susie’s head it seems like she is condoning Martin’s treatment of her. When he turns more abusive in the bothy she starts thinking up abstract solutions for his violence, going so far as to defend him and give reasons as to why she should stay with him. There comes a point that she decides to fight back, but even then it doesn’t feel like she’s really fighting for herself.
As for the ‘haunted’ bothy, this wasn’t as scary as it could have been, especially as the supernatural happenings take a backseat to Martin and Susie’s marital difficulties. The book didn’t feel like a horror story at all, as there were very few plot twists and the ending didn’t feel appropriate considering what had happened previously. I also felt that the ending was rushed, and there were certain things I was expecting to happen that didn’t. I was disappointed that Susie didn’t feel like she’d changed as a character by the end of the book, and some of the mystery surrounding the bothy was never fully explored.
This book claims to be a horror story and yet spends most of it’s time focused on the marriage between the two characters, with them slowly growing to hate each other. I was disappointed that it felt like one long domestic argument, as when their pasts are revealed it made me wonder why they were even together in the first place and why Susie hadn’t left years ago. The ‘horror’ of the haunted bothy was left as a mystery, but I felt this could have been explored further.
BUY THE BOOK