Help for the Haunted


It begins with a call in the middle of snowy February evening. Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation, helping "haunted souls" find peace. And yet, something in Sylvie senses that this call is different than the rest, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church's red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep only to wake to the sound of gunfire.

Nearly a year later, we meet Sylvie again struggling with the loss of her parents, and living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened the previous winter.

As the story moves back and forth in time, through the years leading up to the crime and the months following, the ever inquisitive and tender-hearted Sylvie pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night, as she comes to terms with her family's past and uncovers secrets that have haunted them for years.

Capturing the vivid eeriness of Stephen King's works with the compelling quirkiness of John Irving's beloved novels, Help for the Haunted is that rare story that brings to life a richly imagined and wholly original world. From the very first page, it takes readers on a captivating journey, told in the heartbreakingly resonant voice of a young heroine who is determined to discover the truth about her family and what went wrong one snowy winter night.


Winner of the American Library Association Alex Award
Boston Globe's 2013 Best Crime Fiction
An Amazon Top 10 Mystery and Suspense Novel of 2013
Entertainment Weekly's Top 10 Must List

I was completely consumed by Help for the Haunted; I read it in one sitting. I just can't decide what I loved the most: its perfectly pitched teenage narrator; the ghost story that kept me riveted; the thriller that made me say, Oh, just one more chapter. John Searles has drawn a delicate portrait of the gap between what we know to be true, and what we desperately want to believe. In fact the only flaw I can find is that I've finished the novel - and that it's going to be awfully hard for my next reading choice to measure up.

— Jodi Picoult, NYT bestselling author of
Lone Wolf and The Storyteller

John Searles has given us something wonderful with Help for the Haunted: A coming of age tale that is poignant and touching...and will scare the living hell out of you. I loved every page of this novel: I loved the sisters and the story and the page-turning mystery. I just may never go downstairs into my basement again.

— Chris Bohjalian, bestselling author of
Midwives and The Light in the Ruins

A quickly paced and boldly rendered ghost story, Searles' dark novel about a young girl haunted by the murder of her parents had me up reading all night. And checking the doors. I found it impossible to put down. 

— Sara Gruen, bestselling author of
Water for Elephants and Ape House

Searles has a knack for building tension...a well-paced journey, wrapped in a mystery, that will keep readers guessing until the revealing conclusion.

— Kirkus Reviews

Help for the Haunted grabs you by the throat in the opening chapter, and shakes you to the core, just as it sweeps up Sylvie, its young heroine who has to sift madly though a thousand twists and turns to try to tell the paranormal from the mundane in order to solve the unusual circumstances of her parents' murder and her own part in it. This is edge-of-your-seat reading of a very high quality, and, be warned, it is seriously spine-tingling.

— Robert Goolrick, best-selling author of A Reliable Wife

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