Paul Russo has just lost the love of his life. After a horrifying battle with cancer, his wife Allison dies, leaving Paul to raise his three children alone. On top of all this, as a real estate agent who has not been working for months, Paul must now find homes to sell in a down economy. His prayers and nightmares are answered when a childhood friend asks to list his parent’s sprawling manor, Stillwell. There are two downsides: a) a murder/suicide has just recently happened in the home and b) it’s haunted. Though Paul wants nothing to do with Stillwell, he knows he must take the listing in order to feed his family. It is when Paul experiences the ghost for himself, as well as dreams of his beloved wife being trapped by a demon, that he begins to investigate. He finds a deep connection to his family and those that still live in Long Island. Paul is tasked with freeing his wife’s soul and setting free the spirits of Stillwell.
While there is a decent amount of ghost story in Stillwell, the book is primarily author Michael Phillips Cash describing the horrific details of survivor’s guilt and what happens when a spouse dies. So much of the book focuses on the details of raising children, going back to work and restarting life that the ghost story aspects of the book often feel rushed or more as an afterthought. Character’s actions are also quickly explained away, rather than left for the reader to contemplate. We learn quickly that the murder/suicide was really more of a mercy kill for an Alzheimer’s patient and that maybe all the ghost nonsense really isn’t that bad.
I really wanted to like Stillwell, but I found myself more frustrated than spooked. The book promised demons; I just didn’t know they’d be the personal type.
Stillwell: A Haunting on Long Island is available now.