Glebe House is Ben and Elliot’s fathers’ next project as he has been asked to renovate it for the owners to sell, all they know about the history of the house is that something tragic had happened there in the past, and they are about to find out the history the hard way.
The Hunting Ground is a novel narrated in the third person set in an old abandoned mansion called Glebe House, which was once owned by a man named Vincent Cullayn. Cullayn took great pleasure in hunting, the house is full of hundreds of his paintings, which always show Cullayn and his kills, there is some sort of power contained within the portraits that make them difficult to remove and seems to give Cullayn some control over those who look at them.
It’s the pleasure that is apparent on Cullayn’s face in the portraits that makes the house ominous and makes the past owner a fearful, mysterious but twisted individual. These portraits become even more intimidating in the East Wing as they show Cullayn widening his hunting field to include adults and children. The East Wing was designed, created and built by Cullayn as the starting point to his hunts and is boarded up to prevent anyone entering. It’s dangerous because it is built like a labyrinth.
“From the outside the East Wing looks innocent enough,” Dad said. “Inside’s another story. It’s full of nearly identical rooms. One half is all bedrooms, the other half all bathrooms. And the longer corridors look as if they run in a straight line, but don’t. They bring you in a circle, only so gradually that you can’t tell. I used a compass to navigate, and I still nearly got lost inside there.”
Ben, a fourteen year old boy, and Elliot, his older sixteen year old brother, are the main “living” protagonists, and because they move home regularly with their father to renovate houses they are pretty close to each other and are always watching each other’s backs. Their solid family relationship and caring natures make this family endearing, which allows you to gain an emotional attachment, encouraging you to root for their safety.
The Hunting Ground opens with a ghost awoken by the family’s arrival, the ghost seems innocent enough as she is a young girl. Eve seemingly abandoned and alone wants Ben and Elliot to play with her but she continually leads them into the East Wing and sings really chilling songs describing the different ways Cullayn had killed all his victims.
Dad, searching the Library, uncovers part of a diary by Theo Stark. Theo states that he is the elder brother of Eve and that he lived in Glebe House with his parents. In his diary there is an introduction to a girl called Janey who pins flowers to her dress and can communicate with ghosts. Elliot realizes that they may have a way to find some answers as there is an old lady who wanders the huge grounds and had been seen to still pin flowers to her dress, her name is also Janey, and has quite an active part to play.
Theo’s diary is given in instalments helping to build a terrifying, tense atmosphere, as Ben and Elliot’s story so far has been very similar to Theo’s. Elliot, recognizing that Ben is showing behavioral signs similar to Eve’s, seeks to try and change their fates. The frightening atmosphere is developed slowly drawing you in until you truly believe that Ben, Elliot and their father’s lives are endangered and you’re willing them to escape before it’s too late.
The final pages of the diary lead the family into the finale, a hunt where the family has to finally face Cullayn’s ghost. Will the fate of Ben, Elliott and Dad be the same as Theo and Eve’s, finally giving Cullayn the power he needs to be able to terrify the rest of the world or will they find a way to finally put Cullayn to rest?
I was pleasantly surprised with The Hunting Ground and I enjoyed it. It’s a great introduction to horror if, like me, you lack creepy reads. It has a tense, fearful atmosphere that I expect from a horror without being overly scary, but with enough heart pounding moments to keep you interested. McNish produces a dark, twisted villain with Cullayn, which made me extremely concerned for the pleasant family in the house. This anxiety grew as the story unfolded, increasing the pace and keeping the pages turning easily.
I would say The Hunting Ground is aimed at the 14-16 year old bracket, as although it creates a good fear factor, it’s not deeply scary. It lacks blood and gore, and you can easily turn the light off after reading. But a great thrilling and chilling read.
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