Ripley, Ron: Berkley Street (2016)


Ron Ripley obviously understands the importance of atmosphere in his story about Shane Ryan. Like most supernatural creatures, ghosts have been tools story tellers have used for centuries. Berkley Street is full of them.

Berkley Street is the first story in the 9-book Berkley Street series. Each book has a satisfactory ending. No cliffhangers. It is about 170 pages long. The last few pages are “Bonus Chapters” that explain how one of the inhabitants of the house became a ghost. Berkley Street begins in 1982 and switches between Shane’s life until his parents disappeared and Shane’s life from the time he moved back into Berkley Street 125. The novel is told as a set of short-stories tied together by Shane’s present day search for his parents.

Shane Ryan is overcome when he sees the property his parents have bought.

“Wow,” Shane whispered. “Wow.”

Shane’s parents laughed happily, and he followed them up the front walk. His father took out the house key, unlocked the large door and opened it. Shane stepped into the biggest room he had ever seen.

A huge set of stairs stretched up into the darkness, and dim pieces of furniture filled what he realized was a hallway. Close to where Shane stood, a tall grandfather clock ticked away the time.

And behind the tick of the second hand, Shane heard whispers.

Someone whispered in the walls.

The house, itself, is strange. On the outside it was designed to look like a small castle. The inside does not know its own composition. Number and size of levels, rooms, doors and passages changes at the whim of one of the ghost mistress.

Shane Ryan is a veteran of the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has been in the middle of plenty of fighting. Yet, nothing frightens him as much as his own house. No matter how scared he is of Berkley Street, Shane has fought his aunt and uncle in court for the ownership of “His monstrous familial home.” The only reason he kept on fighting to return was so he could find his parents, who had been taken by the house 22 years previously.

“What are you saying, sir? Missing? On the road somewhere?”

“From your house,” the chaplain said in a gentle voice. “They’ve vanished.”

Fear is a marvellous emotion. It keeps us out of trouble. Well, unless we let fear rule our behaviour. The permanent residents of 125 taught Shane, the child and teenager, how to use his fear to help him. Most of the ghosts cannot stop emanating fear. Except for when the ghost mistress commands them, they are OK people. We get to know German Carl, Italian Roberto, “the ragman” and “the old man” who all died as adults. Eloise, Thaddeus and Vivienne died when they were young. We also meet the dark ones. All the ghosts play a role in the hunt for the whereabouts of Shane’s parents. Not only the dead have roles in the story of Berkley Street 125 and Shane Ryan. They and his mother and father, aunt and uncle, Detective Marie Lafontaine, Veteran Gerald Beck, and ex-resident Herman Mishal all reveal 125’s character. Shane’s main opponent is the ghost mistress, the one who holds the heart of the house. Her only wish is to add Shane to her collection of ghosts. Shane and the ghost mistress are both set on being the victor of their war. Their tactics are extremely different. Where the ghost mistress uses terror to control others, Shane tries a more diplomatic approach.

Ron Ripley managed to  scare me. Definitely recommended.


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