ghost files 1
Apryl Baker
Limitless Publishing
2013

  • Cherry blossom lipstick: check. Smokey eyes: check. Skinny jeans: check. Dead kid in the mirror: check. For sixteen year old Mattie Hathaway, this is her normal everyday routine. She’s been able to see ghosts since her mother tried to murder her when she was five years old. No way does she want anyone to know she can talk to spooks. Being a foster kid is hard enough without being labeled a freak too. Normally, she just ignores the ghosts and they go away. That is until she see’s the ghost of her foster sister… Sally. Everyone thinks Sally’s just another runaway, but Mattie knows the truth—she’s dead. Murdered. Mattie feels like she has to help Sally, but she can’t do it alone. Against her better judgment, she teams up with a young policeman, Officer Dan, and together they set out to discover the real truth behind Sally’s disappearance. Only to find out she’s dealing with a much bigger problem, a serial killer, and she may be the next victim… Will Mattie be able to find out the truth before the killer finds her?

The second e-book I read from the cluster of free Kindle horror books I downloaded (as mentioned in my article for The House Next Door), The Ghost Files was one of those books that, in hindsight, was probably not intended for my particular reading demographic. But, it was free. So I read it. And thus, I am reviewing it.

As with the other authors in the Kindle Kluster (see what I did there?), I was unfamiliar with Apryl Baker. Her biography at the end of this book–as well as on her blog–doesn’t really inform much, and kind of goes for the Lisa Frank style of whimsical fluff, but in word form. Yep. Modern Young Adult author. A peak at her entry at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database shows she’s been publishing since 2011, with the Ghost Files series starting up in 2013 and already five-ish volumes in.

Let’s take a look at the first book in that series: The Ghost Files.

In this first outing, we meet 16-year-old Mattie Hathaway, a foster child who is getting ready for a party. Within the first few paragraphs, we’re clued in to the fact that Mattie can see ghosts, as one appears behind her in the mirror she’s grooming in. Apparently, Mattie’s been able to do this since she was a young child–5, as a matter of fact–so she just ignores the specter and heads off with her boyfriend to the party. But then, after encountering the ghost of her foster sister–who was alive and talking with here not even an hour or so beforehand–she’s shocked to learn that there might be a serial killer targeting foster children. Getting some help from the dreamy 20-something policeman and the ghosts of the victims, she’s getting close to figuring out who the killer is…and she’s not going to like the answer to that mystery, or even survive…

For a YA novel, the story with The Ghost Files wasn’t all that bad. Mind you, it had its flaws: while not necessarily a full-blown Mary Sue character, it does seem that all the boys wanna git wit’ sweet Mattie. This includes the 20-year-old policeman who more or less declares his love for, I have to point this out, this 16-year-old girl. A girl who, when she’s not going on with the mystery and the trials and tribulations of a foster child, actually stops the narrative to fawn over the hot guys she comes across. She even gets the hots for a ghost of a boy. Again, I realize I may not be the demographic for this genre (even back when I was the right age for this type of book, I was cutting my horror fiction teeth on Stephen King and Clive Barker, so I may have a bit more of a disadvantage), but it seems more than a bit arbitrary, really.

On the plus side, though, once we get past the fact that I more or less guessed the big twist reveal before I finished the fist chapter, The Ghost Files does manage to end on a satisfactory note. Sure, there was the obvious sequel bait (this is an ongoing series, after all), but at least the ending didn’t tie everything up in a nice neat package where everything works out in the end. Mattie is a tragic hero, here.

Overall: While there were points where I found myself rolling my eyes at the parts that were clearly not written for my particular demographic, this first volume of The Ghosts Files held my attention with a pretty good supernatural mystery that had some spine-chilling moments. It did prompt me to get a few more volumes in the series when the chance presented itself. Worth a look-see.