If you’ve floated around this blog long enough, you might know that I love good voice acting. I adore it. When I’m reporting for MCM Comic Con, I’m the only one who throws herself forward to interview voice actor’s like she’s just heard Daniel Radcliffe is selling ice cream in the foyer. The human voice is incredible, it’s fascinating, and it’s a muscle not everyone knows how to turn into a skill.
Which is why I’m major fussy about audiobooks. I can count the number of audiobooks I’ve listened to on…maybe two hands? Voice acting is one thing, but narrating is harder than people appreciate, and I won’t listen to someone who can’t pace their sentences or emote the narrator. There’s a lot to think about. So when I find a great audiobook, I’ve got to tell the world.
The Basic Premise
Our protagonist, Remy, gives ghost tours around an old house with a history of countless murders. She is fascinated by its stories and the now-deceased-owner responsible for so much death. One night, a tour guest asks Remy if he can stay in the house with her for two weeks, along with a couple of spirit mediums and a few friends. What starts out as benign and curious (almost dull in terms of encounters), gradually plunges the group into a living nightmare where none of them might escape the house alive.
The Carrow Haunt by Darcy Coates is, for starters, an incredible ghost story. At first, I didn’t think it was particularly scary for quite a long time and was almost disappointed, but what kept me going (and what should keep readers hooked, anyway) was the characters. They’re flawed and yet totally wholesome with individual mysteries.
I think what I loved was the non-offensiveness of everyone’s representation. Each person starts out seemingly caricature but their personality constantly builds with the story’s tension. Remy, in particular, is a wonderful protagonist. Despite playing the part of group mediator, she’s also resourceful, brave and her constant attempt to rationale things is both realistic and intriguing.
The spirit mediums managed to feel fresh and vibrant despite the cliches of their job role. The author clearly loves her genre and the modern-day approach to understanding ghosts. As characters share their knowledge with each other, they chastise misconceptions and speak with passion about the laws of the supernatural. Seances and EMF readers are used to great effect—as in, not too much. The spookiness comes from the ambience and character behaviours.
No matter what small part a character played, I quickly found I cared about them all. They felt distinctly individual and their backstories unfolded with perfect timing.
Now, the first 50% of this book is like mild cheddar, as in, not that scary. It’s spooky and curious, and the characters are interesting personalities, but it’s not Pee Your Pants Scary. I recommended it to my cousin, who is terrified of ghost stories but would like to read one that isn’t too intense. I even started listening to it at bedtime.
I later retracted this recommendation.
Fear-factor hits a sharp incline. If I’d watched this as a movie, I definitely would have had nightmares, but luckily the imagination can be as clear or as blunt as you want. At one point, I found myself rolling in bed as far away from my phone as possible, as if something terrible would reach out of the speakers and grab me.
But I couldn’t turn it off. My eyes were often burning—I’d be so exhausted from a long day at work and equally aware I had another long day ahead of me—but I couldn’t stop listening no matter how late it got.
And in part, I really credit the narrator for that. We’ll fully praise her in a moment.
Coates does this awesome thing where certain mysteries you’d forgotten about are answered when emotions are running high. Clues you didn’t even know were clues fall into place as Hell opens up beneath the characters’ feet.
As terrible things keep happening, you’re forced to doubt everything you suspected to be true, only to have the rug pulled out from under your feet again in the most satisfying way.
Coates absolutely knows how to raise the stakes and how to get your heart racing.
We reach the whole reason I wanted to write a blog-post review. The narrator. As it turns out, Amanda Leigh Cobb is an actual American actress, which might account for how impressive her reading skills are. Turns out she’s narrated quite a few high-profile books, so, guess what I’m buying next!
Every character has a unique sounding tone and pitch that is never stupid or forgotten. The general narration is constantly characterised. You feel as if you are Remy, following her thoughts and feelings as she lives in Carrow House with a group of strangers.
Cobb captures and projects every emotion with absolute clarity, and she never rushes her sentences. Even lines that are slurred because a character is drunk, you understand the dialogue and conveyed feelings.
She’s a pleasure to listen to and the versatility of her voice is utterly admirable and makes me envious. In a star-struck way.
If you’ve never enjoyed an audiobook before and you think you’d like to try a scary ghost story, then I sincerely recommend listening to this one.