Epeolatry Book Review: Passing Through Veils by John Harrison


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Title: Passing Through Veils
Author: John Harrison
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror, Suspense
Publisher: Wordfire Press
Release Date: 15th August, 2023

Synopsis: A fusion of Shirley Jackson and Gillian Flynn, Passing Through Veils is a gripping psychological thriller about Kathryn Fields who moves into a run-down Georgetown, D.C. townhouse in hopes that restoring it will be a metaphor for her own rehabilitation from the recent nervous breakdown that derailed her promising career.

But when she discovers a forgotten vanity behind a false wall in her bedroom and the secrets hidden there, the veil between the real and the surreal is abruptly pierced, and the ghost of a beautiful woman who was murdered in this very townhouse escapes to seek revenge.

Is this simply a fantasy of Katherine’s damaged psyche?

Or have her own demons finally escaped to torment her?

This 244 page novel opens with a prologue—necessary, in my opinion, due to the switch in point of view once the reader moves into Chapter One.

Told in third person omniscient, the story opens in Washington D.C.’s so-dubbed City of Ghosts, Georgetown specifically. Moneyed Rebecca Wright is in her 19th Century townhome, sitting at her vanity. Makeup and a gun are at her fingertips. It’s her anniversary. And at the Prologue’s end, someone dies. 

Chapter One, fast forward to modern day. Kathryn Fields and her mother Sloan enter Kathryn’s newly bought 1896 fixer upper. Snobby Sloan calls it small, unfashionable. Kathryn finds it cozy, and quite fashionable.  And then Jack Wright—Rebecca Wright’s son—knocks on the townhouse door with blueprints in hand, the same Jack who had once lived there as a little boy until tragedy struck. 

By end of Chapter Two, Kathryn is torn and conflicted. She feels as though she’s being watched, but also feels like the house has been waiting for her to bring it back to life. 

I loved the allusions to ghosts and hauntings. While this is a ghost story, it’s more of a mystery. Slightly reminiscent of the thriller movie What Lies Beneath, Kathryn reminds me of Michelle Pfeiffer’s role as the wife of a professor who feels compelled to investigate the murder of a beautiful woman appearing to her. 

Early in this gothic story, the reader learns that Kathryn suffered from a mental breakdown. She reluctantly sees a therapist whom she doesn’t much care for and is prescribed medication that she takes here and there. So, she’s a distrustful narrator, my favorite kind. I found myself wondering, Is this a haunting? Or a possession? Is she being duped, and if so, then by whom? 

Thankfully, this book was easy to read. I get discouraged nowadays with flowery sentences, vague settings, and over explanations. I don’t like not knowing where I am or what exactly is going on. Having questions as I read are expected—the author can’t give everything away at once. But few readers like wondering, What is the author trying to say? Harrison never made me read a sentence twice. He completely immersed me within his strong characters and grounded in the atmospheric settings. Good suspension of disbelief lingered throughout the tale as the author burrowed into his main character’s head. Backstory was given in all the right places, and only when needed. And I liked the omniscient foreshadowing at the end of occasional chapters. 

I read this book in one day. It’s a who-done-it, so I can’t write too much more without spoilers. If you like cities and creepy old houses, unsolved cold cases, vengeful ghosts, and untrustworthy seductions, you’ll enjoy reading Passing Through Veils.


Available here Amazon and Bookshop.

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