The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero
Just finished reading The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero. This is a very intriguing story that starts off as a gothic ghost story with a young man inheriting a fortune and a creepy haunted house and then twists into something else resembling a treasure hunt, a mystery and a race against time. I really enjoyed this I have to admit. It’s a read that grips you and takes you down a certain path only to turn off at the most unexpected juncture and go down another route completely.
Told through the use of notebooks (written by Niamh who is mute and records all her conversations in this way), journals, video footage and other pieces such as research articles and book extracts. You might think that this style wouldn’t work but in actual fact it really does. I actually enjoy this method of storytelling. The story starts as the young man of the piece, known only as ‘A’ becomes the owner of a three storey mansion left to him by his recently deceased second cousin twice removed (Ambrose). Axton House is located in Virginia and so A and his companion, Niamh set off to explore their new found wealth.
The house and estate is huge and feels like a throw back in time. Once through the doors the house feels literally like the land that time forgot. This is also perfectly matched by A’s style of notetaking and his manuals which have a very old fashioned style of writing. The feeling created at the start of the book is definitely that of a gothic and spooky tale. The house has a menacing past and actually has it’s own resident ghost. On top of this there is a huge library, long sweeping hallways that seem to swallow the light and hidden rooms to be discovered.
At the beginning of the story A and N are faced with a couple of mysteries, not least of which is why the late Ambrose (the previous owner) committed suicide at exactly the same age and in exactly the same way as his father. On top of this the butler has gone missing and it appears that the late cousin may have been involved in some strange, maybe occult, activity that results in an annual gathering at the house every solstice – and this is what all events are building towards.
It’s difficult to go too much into plot because I don’t want to give away anything. Fairly early on A seems to be affected by the house while Niamh seems oblivious and goes around the place fixing up cameras and other recording equipment, computers and gadgetry. A starts by encountering the ghost in the bathroom and from there begins to have quite horrible and puzzling dreams which result in him becoming excessively tired and out of character. Strangely this part of the story put me in mind of The Shining and the slow descent into madness that Jack Torrance suffered whilst caretaking the Overlook Hotel. The fact that Axton House has it’s very own maze which also sits at the heart of the mystery helps to encourage that impression. I don’t in any way mean that in a negative way, this is certainly not in any shape mimicking the work of Stephen King – it was just a reflection as I was reading this part of the story. Things fairly swiftly move forwards however and take a completely different turn. And that’s where I’ll stop about the plot.
In terms of the characters – they almost read like the cast from an Agatha Christie novel. There are the friendly neighbours who hesitate to tell you things about the history of the place and owners, the old lawyer, family retainer, brief appearances from a few residents in town who also seem to suffer from a heightened fear about Axon and an old acquaintance of Ambrose who seems to have something at stake, but nobody knows exactly what. You end up suspecting everyone of foul deeds! With regard to A and N they definitely work their charm on you – enough so that when things take a drastic turn at the end of the story I was definitely concerned for both of them.
This is probably more plot led than anything else and things move quickly forward as the two main characters struggle to follow the trail of crumbs that will lead them to the heart of the mystery. The ending is dark, twisted and unexpected.
Regarding criticisms, personally I probably could have done with a little less explanation about the codebreaking but I have no doubt that some people will love the explanations and even go and try a few messages out themselves using the theory contained here. I felt that element was a little too descriptive and for me it took me out of the story a little – but, once the key messages have been deciphered that element of the story moves forward.
Overall I found this quite a compelling story. I enjoyed the narrative style and the way the novel twists from one thing to the next keeping the reader on their toes. Nothing here is as it first appears. On top of that, having finished and with the knowledge that the ending brings I now find myself reflecting back to certain elements of the story and thinking ‘ah hah!’ I like it when a story keeps me coming back to it even days after I’ve finished. In fact, to be honest, I think this is probably one story that would definitely benefit from a reread, I think it would read completely differently the second time around.
Check out the two covers – totally different in style and yet I like both for different reasons. I think the orange and black cover is very eye catching and I love the pattern of the sky. The other cover has a very strange appearance but on investigation is overflowing with different elements of the story.
I received a copy courtesy of the publishers through Netgalley for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.