The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero
Pub. Date: August 12, 2014
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (thank you, Doubleday!!)
Summary: When twentysomething A., the unexpected European relative of the Wells family, and his companion, Niamh, a mute teenage girl with shockingly dyed hair, inherit the beautiful but eerie estate of Axton House, deep in the woods of Point Bless, Virginia, it comes as a surprise to everyone—including A. himself. After all, he never even knew he had a “second cousin, twice removed” in America, much less that the eccentric gentleman had recently committed suicide by jumping out of the third floor bedroom window—at the same age and in the same way as his father had before him . . .
Together, A. and Niamh quickly come to feel as if they have inherited much more than just a rambling home and a cushy lifestyle. Axton House is haunted, they know it, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the secrets they slowly but surely uncover. Why all the suicides? What became of the Axton House butler who fled shortly after his master died? What lurks in the garden maze and what does the basement vault keep? And what of the rumors in town about a mysterious gathering at Axton House on the night of the winter solstice?
Genre: Paranormal, Mystery, Epistolary
Summertime isn’t exactly my preferred season for supernatural novels – they’re more for Halloween/fall – but this slim little novel caught my eye and my autoapproval on netgalley was all I needed to make the leap. To say The Supernatural Enhancements is a horror novel wouldn’t be correct, nor would labeling it a ghost story. While there are definite elements of the genre (okay, so there’s actually a ghost, but..!), this is far more a mystery and I was so set to take this ride.
When A., 23-years-old and never fully named, receives a letter declaring him to be the sole relative (and therefore heir) of the fabulously wealthy Ambrose Wells, he does what any reasonable adult would do: pack up his belongings and head across the Atlantic. With his friend (? girlfriend? companion?) Niamh, a mute, shaved-headed, punk-rock girl, they move into the sprawling Axton House. The house isn’t quick to give up its secrets, and there aren’t many around who are willing to talk: Ambrose followed in his father’s footsteps by committing suicide; the butler packed his belongings and fled; and the townsfolk definitely aren’t eager to get involved in anything dealing with the estate.
Told through a string of diary entries, telegrams, and Paranormal Activity-style camera footage, The Supernatural Enhancements delves into the life of a reclusive man, his estate, a ghost, encryption codes, and a mysterious garden maze. I’m typically not one for epistolary novels – I was never able to get into the story and get a good feel for the characters – but I lapped this one up. I plowed through it in a matter of hours (the formatting definitely helped with that!) and discovered an odd little novel that was seriously entertaining.
Hands down, the best thing about The Supernatural Enhancements was Niamh. Despite her handicap, Niamh is snarky and crass, always quick with a comeback and she never shies away from putting A. in his place. At her insistence they get a dog which they name Help (..so as to ensure he’ll assist us in case of peril) and, just like me, Help immediately took a liking to this girl. She knows how to Get Things Done; when they first start to experience strange things, she heads to town to arrange for security cameras to be installed. She’s always the first to figure things out and leaves both A. and the reader to play catch up.
To discuss the novel’s plot would be to give away the best part of the book – and trust me, uncovering the clues is half the fun! All I’ll say is that Wells wasn’t as reclusive as people thought. Sorry guys, that’s all you’re getting from me! To find out more you’re going to have to read The Supernatural Enhancements, but I promise it’s so worth it!
If you’re into creepy settings (This silence here was somewhat heavier, lonelier than the preceding one. The former was an elevator silence; this one was a walking-through-the-woods-by-night silence.), rooms that lead to nowhere, secret pasts, awesome characters, quirky formats, The X-Files, and historical fiction (the novel takes place in the 90s, but were it not for a few specific references to television shows, I could have easily believed this took place far, far earlier), this is the book for you. From what I can tell, this is Cantero’s debut in English. If the rest of his books are this fun, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for translations!