Book Review: The Ghost Writer, by John Harwood

1.5 Stars

Well, my year of reading crappy books (with a few exceptions here and here) continues.  The sad thing is, I’ve read two other books by this author (The Seance and The Asylum), and loved them. In his defense, this was his debut novel. So, if you’ve read this and hated it, please try one of the aforementioned, as they are much better.


This story is actually multiple stories in one. There are four short stories, in their entirety, throughout the book. Weaving them all together is the main plot line. Or really, lack of main plot line. Absolutely nothing of note happens to the protagonist until 3/4 of the way through the book. Hence the need for the short stories.

I’ve read books that feature short stories in the narrative before, but this one was done poorly. Three of the four have nothing to do with the main story, other than setting. The fourth is the important one, and I think the book would’ve been better if this was the only one featured. I got the impression, since this was Harwood’s first novel, that he had these short stories lying around and decided to just throw them in there. Not only did they not move the main story line along, they contributed to confusion while reading. Keeping track of characters from two different stories is bad enough, but four and a main story? It’s insane. Especially since the important fourth story’s characters mirror those of the ‘real’ world so closely.

Then there’s the infamous ending. It just drops off. Literally. I’ve read a lot of short horror stories, and most of them sort of drop off at the end, leaving you unsatisfied and wondering what happened next. I don’t mind those, since they’re short stories. Doing that in a novel seems ridiculous.

The last thing I’m going to mention is the lack of other reviewers picking up on the amount of Dickens in here. I’ve seen people compare this to Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher. No. It’s clearly Great Expectations. Almost down to the last detail. Come on, people. Harwood even references it twice.

I’ll continue to read Harwood’s work, since I know he got better after this debut. If you’ve read anything of his before and want more, skip this one and wait until he writes something new.



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