Genre: Mystery / Supernatural
Released: May 2018
Reviewed by: Jane Stockwell
“The Haunting of Riley Watson” is a murder mystery with strong elements of the supernatural, by Alexandria Clarke. She has written a considerable number of books and anthologies in the supernatural, mystery, chick-lit genre.
The story starts with the death of Thelma Watson, co-owner with her husband, Oliver, of the exclusive King and Queens Ski Lodge and Resort in Vermont. Thelma falls to her death when the ski lift fails on her daily early morning ski. At first glance, It seems that her death is nothing more than an unfortunate accident.
With the scenario established, we are introduced to Lucia Star, a young woman who is not the most reputable psychic in the world. To put it politely, Lucia is a fraud. With the help of her friend, Jazmin, Lucia exploits unsuspecting, desperate people to appear on her YouTube channel, where she uses an array of tricks to convince them that she has made contact with their loved ones.
After a disastrous episode of her show when her fraudulent activities are exposed, Lucia is left with no income and no apparent way to salvage her damaged reputation as a medium. She is saved from her dire situation when contacted by Oliver Watson, who is completely unaware that Lucia is a fraud. Oliver offers her $10,000 to stays at the King and Queens for a week and help his daughter Riley, who claims she is being haunted by ghosts.
Lucia of course agrees and embarks on her week with Riley, believing it will be easy money. Instead, she finds herself embroiled in a murder investigation and genuine ghostly happenings surrounding the King and Queen’s dark past.
There is an array of support characters including Riley’s thoroughly despicable older brother, Tyler, and the solid and handsome ex-alcoholic detective, Daniel Hawkins. Detective Hawkins is at King and Queens to continue his investigation into the death of Riley and Tyler’s mother, Thelma.
The writing style is fairly immature, and the surroundings and support characters all feel rather stereotypical. It didn’t take long for the reader to realize that Lucia would have genuine supernatural abilities and that the terrible tragedy decades before at the resort would be directly linked to the death of Thelma Watson and the ghostly happenings there.
For all its naive writing style and walking on the well-traveled path in the genre of haunted house mysteries, I still did actually quite enjoy the book. I warmed to the character of Lucia as she transformed from cynical con artist to a true believer in the supernatural.
My biggest criticism was that the ending was obviously meant to be spooky and unsettling, but instead, it just didn’t really make sense. Given the behavioral patterns laid out during the story, the final scene just seemed contradictory. The ending felt too abrupt as if the author had been told to finish up the book, get it out and start work on the next one.
I don’t regret reading the book, it was entertaining enough although it didn’t tax too much of the brain. I do, however, wish that the story had a more rounded out ending, rather than going for the cheap win of spooky. Judging by the star ratings on her books at Amazon, Alexandria Clarke seems like a popular enough author, but I find that I am not really interested in reading any of her other books myself.