The Hunting Ground – Cliff McNish

“Dead things can sound alive when they choose. Dead things can move around.
At first nothing woke sixteen-year-old Elliott. Asleep in bed, he failed to notice the eerie whispered rhymes. Or the sighs. Or the footsteps. Those footsteps came lightly and swiftly towards him – someone or something running incredibly fast across the floors of the old house. A presence long dead was on its return to the world of the living.”
Elliott and his brother, Ben, have spent their lives moving from one house to the next whilst their dad renovated houses. They live in the houses as their father does the work, but Glebe House has to be the biggest and spookiest house they have ever encountered.  They don’t expect anything too spooky as both of them were past believing in ghosts a long time ago… but soon Ben starts taking trips into the out-of-bounds East Wing and a little girl called Eve watches them in their sleep. An old diary tells the of a boy and his sister who lived in the house 50 years ago – when a terrible tragedy occurred. Elliott knows that the terrifying East Wing, with its maze of corridors and its identical rooms, holds some secrets but he must find out how to defeat what’s in there before his father and brother are in serious trouble.

The Hunting Ground is a terrifying tale that will have you hiding behind a cushion, yet always peaking out to read on. It captivates you and makes you read on even though it’s getting darker outside and you know you’re going to have trouble sleeping, and I for one, loved every minute of it!
I LOVE ghost stories, I love scaring myself stupid and not being able to sleep because something has scared me so much, so The Hunting Ground was a perfect read for me. It had all the makings of a good ghost story with twists and turns so you never know what’s coming next and a spooky setting that was just right. What I think I loved the most was the fact that The Hunting Ground was set in modern times and that didn’t seem to hinder the development of the story or the atmosphere at all, I’ve often found that writers will convert back to an older, less technologically advanced time to get the setting just right but Cliff McNish managed not to is this creepy story!
There’s something about ghost children that really freaks me out so when the very first pages saw a young female ghost scraping a doll across the floor and singing a nursery rhyme style song I knew this would hit the right spot for me and it really did… the rhymes got weirder and the story got creepier but I kept going because it was just what I wanted from my ghost story. The live characters were interesting enough but it was the ghosts I was interested in and especially Eve and Theo, even if Theo only really appeared as a part of the diary that Elliott finds. I found Janey spooky, even though she was a live character and there was something about her that really scared me. I think it might have been those eyes…
The story was helped by the beautiful writing and the use of third person narration. The narration allowed for the reader to see more in Glebe House than a single character would and that helped the story along fantastically. There was one single thing that I did not like about this book but it’s a personal thing that I doubt will bother other readers as much. Due to the third person narration everyone was called by their names rather than “I” or “you”, obviously. However there’s one section that followed Elliott’s dad into the east Wing and focussed on him… and all the way through he was called “dad” that really annoys me in everyday life and it grated with me here too, I don’t understand why there was the need to call the character “dad” he had a name before he was a father! It didn’t bother me when he was with Elliott or Ben in scenes but when it was just him on his own I feel that I would have preferred an introduction to him.
Other than that one point I adored this book and will be forcing it on everyone! I know it won’t be for everyone but it’s definitely one for me!
The Hunting Ground was published on January 1st by Indigo. Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review, this has not affected my thoughts on the book.
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