Ron Ripley understands the importance of atmosphere in his story about Shane Ryan. Like most supernatural creatures, ghosts have been used for centuries by story tellers. Berkley Street is full of them.
Berkley Street is the first story in the 9-book Berkley Street series. Each novel brings its problem (haunted site) to completion while continuing the overarching story (Shane Ryan’s near-death experiences), leaving us without nasty cliffhangers. The last few pages of the e-book are “Bonus Chapters” that explain how one of the inhabitants of Berkley Street 125 became a ghost. Berkley Street jumps between the time before 1982 when Shane’s parents disappeared and after Shane moved back into 125. The novel can be read 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 the ghost mistress.
22 years after the disappearance of Shane Ryan’s parents, he returns as a veteran of the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In spite of the many battles he has seen, nothing frightens him as much as his own house. No matter how afraid he is of the house at Berkley Street 125, Shane has fought his aunt and uncle in court for the ownership of “His monstrous familial home.” The only reason he kept on fighting them for ownership was so he could return to search for his parents, who had disappeared inside the house.
“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 projecting 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. Ghosts, Shane’s 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 destroying the other. Their tactics are extremely different. Where the ghost mistress uses terror to control others, Shane tries a more diplomatic approach.
Ron Ripley’s story pressed the right buttons and frightened me. I did manage to finish it.