When Annette returns to the Morecambe Bay home she has inherited from her parents, she seems haunted by something unnameable. The house is crumbling and falling to pieces, its existence threatened by the presence of tree roots pushing up through the foundations and tearing them to shreds. Ivy is coming in through the windows. Random cracks appear by the shower and damp spores cover the walls. Annette is at a loss. When she injures herself by hacking at these damaging trees, the reader realises that something in her past is playing as big a role in her breakdown as the state of the house in front of her.
What she doesn’t realise, though, is that she is not only haunted by a troubling history. The actual ghosts of her parents haunt her, too, watching over everything she does when she returns to the house. And it is through their perspective that we learn of the past that so concerns Annette. Of the illness that wrecked her mother, of the troubles in her parents’ marriage, and, most importantly, of the stranger who came to live in their lodging rooms and the healing powers he held in his hands.
It’s a fascinating and original way to tell a story. With actual spirits as her narrators, Ashworth gives herself an unprecedented amount of space in which to construct her story. These spirits can go where they want when they want and see into people’s thoughts in a way that might otherwise seem too intrusive. It allows this mysterious and miraculous story to unfold in a subtle arc that stretches our imaginations without stretching our ability to believe. It makes the unbelievable believable.
Any Cop?: It is. Ashworth’s trademark writing style has found a perfect home in this narrative, her measured pace and pared back prose fitting the story perfectly. If a criticism must exist, and unfortunately it must, it does seem that some of the plot points aren’t satisfactorily resolved. As mysterious as the story and its characters are, it might have been nice to have a little less mystery remaining when the final page was finished.