Reviews for Help for the Haunted

Booklist Reviews 2013 July #1
*Starred Review* The Masons were demonologists who advertised their services as help for the haunted. But the one who is truly haunted in Searles' third novel (following Strange but True, 2004) is their 14-year-old daughter, Sylvie, who witnessed her parents' murders in a church on a bitterly cold evening. Now, a year later, as the case is coming up for trial, she is under pressure from the police because the troubled client she ID'd as her parents' killer has produced an airtight alibi. Bullied at school and ignored by her older sister, who is now her legal guardian, supersmart, intrepid Sylvie is determined to figure out just what happened on that fateful night, and her search leads to some very surprising answers. Searles expertly manages his cleverly conceived plotline as he alternately withholds and doles out key information in tantalizing fashion. Amid the fascinating cast of characters, including her ne'er-do-well uncle, a kindhearted school counselor, and the specter of her supportive mother, is the unforgettable Sylvie. Somewhat geeky and blind to her own family's dynamics, Sylvie manages to figure out the hows and whys behind the catastrophic event that changed her life forever. Superlative storytelling. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 May #2
Searles (Boy Still Missing, 2001, etc.) turns in another coming-of-age tale, about a young female protaganist and centered around a possibly occult murder mystery. Sylvie Mason's parents are--or were--"demonologists." Devoutly Christian, her dad zealously worked the lecture circuit while her mom had the talent to soothe the haunted humans who came to them for help. When they are both murdered in a church on a snowy night, 14-year-old Sylvie is the sole witness but doesn't fully remember what happened. In the custody of Rose, her spiteful, rebellious older sister, Sylvie struggles to reconcile her bleak new life with her slightly less-bleak former life. Then, she was always the "good daughter" despite being bullied by Rose and kept in the dark about her parents' career. Now, nearly a year later, she is ostracized by her peers, and the fate of the murder suspect rests in her unsure hands. Searles successfully jumps back and forth in time to let these stories unfold, sewing clues and strange details along the way, the creepiest being a doll named Penny that may be possessed. Slowly, Sylvie breaks out of her good-girl mold to uncover greater truths about her sister, herself and what happened the night of the killing. But for all the time spent uncovering their history, her parents remain murky set pieces, their paranormal abilities and activities never wholly understood. Other pieces of the narrative veer toward overexplanation, but some moments are deftly eerie, and Searles has a knack for building tension; the "haunted" of the title refers as much to Sylvie and her circumstances as to things otherworldly. A somber, well-paced journey, wrapped in a mystery, that will keep readers guessing until the revealing conclusion. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2013 April #2

After Sylvie Mason's parents leave her in the car as they enter an isolated old church, gunshots sound, and Sylvie is left an orphan in the care of an older sister who might be implicated in their parents' death. With a 75,000-copy first printing.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 August #1

"No one makes eye contact or talks to me unless it is to taunt me about my parents and the things that happened to them--the thing that almost happened to me too…." Sylvie Mason and her sister, Rose, are left to fend for themselves after a fateful night that claims their parents' lives. A mysterious phone call is all it took to send her parents out in a blizzard, to a church from which they never returned. All that remains are questions, and Sylvie is determined to find out the truth even if it means going down to the scariest, darkest place in her house: the basement. VERDICT Searles (Boy Still Missing; Strange But True), has written a truly creepy, smart psychological thriller that will keep readers turning pages until the very end. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 3/18/13.]--Cynthia Price, Francis Marion Univ. Lib., Florence, SC

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 June #1

Readers of this unsettling coming-of-age story from Searles (Strange but True) may feel the need to whistle past the graveyard by the end. Nothing has been the same for Sylvie Mason since the cold winter's night when her parents went to a deserted church, not in their self-proclaimed capacity as the saviors of haunted souls, but to meet their runaway older daughter, Rose. Left asleep in the car, Sylvie is awakened by the sound of the gunshots that ended her parents' lives. Nearly a year later, her grief is still fresh. Schoolmates taunt her, and though Rose has assumed legal responsibility for Sylvie, the older Mason girl fails to properly feed, clothe, or otherwise nurture her younger sister, all the while behaving erratically. Sylvie continues to lie to the police about Rose's whereabouts that fatal night, even as the trial of a man arrested for the crimes approaches. Her current existence, her parents' "gifts" and vagabond lifestyle, and strange goings-on in the Masons' basement unfold in nonlinear fashion, keeping the reader on edge while Sylvie bravely uncovers her family's many secrets. Agent: Joanna Pulcini, Joanna Pulcini Literary Management. (Sept.)

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