Book Review: The Chanting

The Chanting
Beverly T. Haaf
Jersey Pines Ink
Copyright 2021 by the author

Janet is having a nightmare. She’s hearing the sound of a baby crying, but cannot get to the infant. Everything seems to be in the wrong place….

Well, she has been under a lot of stress lately. She’s staying with her sister in a rather well-to-do neighborhood near Princeton NJ as she waits for her divorce to be finalized. And she still hasn’t quite gotten over the death of her infant daughter. So yes, she’s probably imagining things.

But why does she keep “sensing” (for lack of a better term) suffering children? What’s the deal with that mute little girl who keeps showing up in the neighborhood? And that senile old woman who’s always dressed in black? And that cat that seems to have the run of the neighborhood? Is she going nuts, or is there really something to worry about with that big old yellow house?

Heliosphere” is a small science fiction convention in the NY/NJ area. I’ve been attending it for a few years, partly as a weekend getaway (I live in the area), and partly to hang out and talk sci-fi with people. For the most part, it’s a convention where local writers, editors, and publishers can hang out, schmooze, and promote their stuff. This year saw one of the local independent publishers have a “launch party”. I forget what was being launched, but it doesn’t matter. I won a copy of this book as a door prize. Normally, “haunted house” stories and similar tales of the supernatural aren’t what I’d pull off the library shelves. But, hey, a free book, let me check it out.

It didn’t take long for me to spot “influences”. Female protagonist seeing things? Big Old House With A Past, that the locals don’t seem to know much about – or won’t talk about? Henry James “Turn of the Screw” and The Changeling (1980). It’s perfectly fine to be influenced by other stories and authors in your genre. It’s what you do with those influences – and where you take them – that matters. At first, I thought it was just going to be a combination of those two. Which is fine. No problems there. But Haaf did something entirely unexpected – and didn’t just “subvert” the tropes. No, I’m not going to give any “spoilers” – read the book yourself.

Haaf also keeps things moving at a brisk pace – possibly too brisk. Unrelated to the main throughline, Janet meets a guy, falls in love, and agrees to marry him over the course of the novel – which is barely a few weeks. Rather a whirlwind romance, one should say. The story probably does need to take some time, though; I doubt even a serious, professional historian / archivist could have dug up the information on the Big Old House in less than two weeks. We are spared any tedious details, happily. I found nothing really extraneous to the story; nothing that could be considered padding.

The Chanting is a well-written, tight supernatural mystery of a tale, and was worth my time. Small, independent publishers like Jersey Pines Ink shouldn’t be ignored – there’s good stuff to be found there.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.