"Ghosts Know" Book Review
Written by Chris Shamburger
Published by Tor Books
Written by Ramsey Campbell
2011, 283 pages, Fiction
Released on October 1st, 2013
Ramsey Campbell is no stranger to horror fiction. He is the author of over 30 genre novels, the recipient of several Bram Stoker Awards, and, most impressive, the lifetime president of the British Fantasy Society, which has promoted the best in fantasy, science fiction, and horror since 1971. He might not be a North American household name à la Stephen King, but if you've ever stepped foot in a library or bookstore, you've undoubtedly been in the presence of his work without even knowing it.
Ghosts Know is, to my count, Campbell's 31st novel. It's not as ambitious or memorable as some of his earlier work like The Doll Who Ate His Mother or The Hungry Moon, but it's an enjoyable diversion into a world of treachery and dangerous influence, all written in the present tense and seen through the eyes of an overbearing, potentially unreliable radio host.
Graham Wilde is said host, whose "Wilde Card" radio program often provokes and manipulates callers to boost ratings. Wilde's latest guest and victim is purported psychic Frank Jasper, who Wilde believes is a bigger exploiter than he is. On air, Wilde attacks Jasper and crosses a line that earns him the animosity of Jasper and several of Wilde's devoted callers.
But it's what happens after the on-air attacks that things really begin to heat up. Jasper becomes involved in the case of a missing girl, and, through his own cerebral investigation, discovers (or fabricates) the revelation of the radio host having something to do with the young girl's disappearance.
Can you say karma?
Our narrator, Wilde, then becomes the number one suspect in an unsolved case as he attempts to balance his personal and professional relationships amidst outwardly devious claims that could jeopardize both.
It's because of this plot that Ghosts Know has about as much to do with horror as Grey's Anatomy has to do with actual medical procedures. If you're looking for something that's going to make you sleep with the light on, Ghosts Know isn't likely to be your next venture. You won't find any ghosts, monsters, or boo moments here, and what violence it does have, it delivers in blink-and-you'll-miss-it spurts. Instead, Campbell smartly focuses on the grueling back-and-forths between clashing personalities, allowing their own exchanges to build the suspense and plot developments. It's a knowing nod to the radio talk shows the story is rooted from.
If you enjoy the work of Robert Bloch, Thomas Harris, or even Gillian Flynn, whose recent Gone Girl made the contemporary thriller relevant again, you're likely to find something enjoyable in Ghosts Know. It doesn't have the cliffhangers to aptly call it a page-turner, but at a practical 283 pages, it's an innocent potboiler with a satisfying twist, and sometimes that's just enough.