the clairvoyants karen brown

The Clairvoyants: A Wonderfully Unsettling Semi-Ghost Story

The Clairvoyants by Karen Brown is billed as a gothic ghost story set in modern times. The main character sees ghosts (!!), and ultimately finds herself down the path of trying to determine the mystery of a murdered girl, running into some murky waters along the way. The story ultimately ended up reading like a lowkey thriller combined with a ghost story, and it was a ton of fun to read.

The Clairvoyants: A Wonderfully Unsettling Semi-Ghost StoryThe Clairvoyants by Karen Brown
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on February 7th 2017
Genres: Thriller, Gothic, Paranormal
Pages: 352
Format: Hardback
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Karen Brown’s most hypnotic novel to date--gothic-inflected psychological suspense that unmasks the secret desires of a young woman with a mystical gift
On the family homestead by the sea where she grew up, Martha Mary saw ghosts. As a young woman, she hopes to distance herself from those spirits by escaping to an inland college town. There, she is absorbed by a budding romance, relieved by separation from an unstable sister, and disinterested in the flyers seeking information about a young woman who’s disappeared—until one Indian summer afternoon when the missing woman appears beneath Martha’s apartment window, wearing a down coat, her hair coated with ice.

I received this book for free from Henry Holt and Co. in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

What I liked:

1. Karen Brown’s writing! She did such a fantastic job. It perfectly set the mood and always adequately crafted the scene. The entire time I read the book I felt slightly unsettled, although nothing explicitly unsettling was happening, and I know that this was a result of her effective writing.

2. The lowkey thriller aspect of this story. If you injected this book with tons of action and threw in some weapons, you’d create the perfect thriller. I’m not a fan of thrillers, because I find them boring (obviously this is not true for every thriller, but I tend to avoid the genre for this reason). This book, however, had just enough mystery/thriller to it to keep you turning the pages, but not enough to become a predictable thriller novel.

3. The SUSPENSE! OMG I live for suspense in novels, and this is a novel of suspense. Sort of like the first point, it just results in a really creepy feeling while reading the novel, even though nothing creepy is actually happening. And then when you finally get to the twists and plot reveals your face suddenly is stuck resembling a gaping fish.

4. The ghosts!!!!! GAH!! I loved that our main character could see ghosts. I loved it even more that this wasn’t the main focus of the story. It was a peripheral point – important to the story, but everything didn’t hang on this. It was so well done.

What I didn’t like so much:

1. The pacing of the novel was a little slow at times. It definitely picks up towards the end, but you definitely have to wade through a lot of atmospheric scenes to get to the plot.

the clairvoyants karen brown

Would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys thrillers, ghost stories, or likes the idea of a modern gothic novel!

I haven’t read a lot of gothic novels, but every one I read I really enjoy. Do you have some good recommendations?

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  1. That unsettling feeling does sound great! I love books that can make you feel like that since it means the author did a great job of showing-not-telling. It’s like, whatever they’re showing is so subtle it seeps into your subconscious. This isn’t really my type of book, but great review, and I’m glad you liked it!

  2. I think I’ve unintentionally read a handful of gothic-inspired novels over the past six months, and I’ve determined it’s a challenging genre to write (or at least bring into the contemporary?). Still, I enjoy the atmosphere, and i do LOVE a ghost story (even if it’s not the main point of a story). So, I think I will definitely keep and eye out for this one at my library.

    1. I agree that it’s likely a challenging genre, but I think this author did a fantasic job, so if you see it you should pick it up. It sounds like it might be something you’d like if you enjoy a good ghost story 😀