The Invited by Jennifer McMahon
So I’ve read several Jennifer McMahon stories and she has a formula she follows. One half of the novel will take place in present time, and the other half will take place in the past-the two intertwining.
This one takes place with a couple building a house on “haunted” land in 2015 and then tracing the genealogy of the family who owned it, us jumping through time from 1924, 1943, 1980, and then 2014-2015.
The story starts off with Hattie Breckinridge. Hattie has a problem, she can see the future and know things she shouldn’t know. She has tried to hide it and tried to help others by using it; but still is a pariah and labeled a witch.
Her family used to be wealthy and powerful in the community but they lost their house when it was burned down by townsfolk, her grandma dying.
She inherited a lot of money when her father died but remained in the woods with her daughter, Jane.
She warned the town something bad would happen at the school that day, and told them to keep their children home but no one listened and it burned down, killing three kids. Hattie hid her daughter Jane, and tried to calm the townsfolk down but they murdered her and hung her in a tree. Her money is buried somewhere on the property and she is rumored to haunt and walk the bog and woods for all eternity.
91 years later history teacher Helen and science teacher Nate Wetherell have decided to build their own house. It all started when Helen’s father, a former renovator/builder passed away. Helen grieved and also felt so lost as what to do next with her life. She decides she wants a historical house in the country and she and Nate started looking.
They searched and searched but none of the houses were right or they cost too much to fix. Nate then decides that they should buy land and build the house themselves. Helen is at first resistant as she wanted something with history, but then they see the Breckinridge land and she changes her mind.
Both are told it is haunted, but ignore it as they don’t believe in ghosts but that will soon change as weird things start happening. They find red strings tied on branches in an area of the bog, a gift of an animal tooth and nail is left at their trailer door, all kinds of things disappear, and they hear strange noises at night and see something…or at least Helen thinks she saw something as Nate doesn’t believe her.
One day there is a circle and when they go out they find a ghost…but it turns out to just be a 14 year old girl, Olive “Ollie” Kissner. Olive grew up in the town with her mother and father hearing the stories of the hidden treasure. She has been searching for it, tying strings to remember where she searched, and stole items and money to try and get the people to leave so she could keep looking. Her mother disappeared last year, everyone says she ran off with a man, and Olive has been searching for the treasure hoping it will bring her mom back or enable her to hire a private investigator to find her.
They feel bad for the girl and decide not to call the police but have her help with the house as she knows a lot about building from her father. She also introduces them to her aunt Riley, who knows a lot of local history and owns a salvage yard.
However, it turns out Olive hasn’t been doing all the spooking. She never left the tooth, she has’t been making the strange noises at night.
Then Helen sees Hattie, espechially after she buys the wooden beam that was in the tree that hung Hattie. She and Riley play with an Ouija board and get a message from Hattie to head to the old mill, Donovan and Sons.
When Helen gets out there she hears about a horrible fire that was there. The mill boss used to lock the women in and when the fire started they couldn’t leave-all burning up.
Helen sees some bricks they were going to toss and takes them home. She puts them in the house and at night she sees Hattie and her daughter Jane. She knows Jane was in the mill and she and Riley do some research and discover that a Jane Whitcomb worked there, formally Jane Smith. After comparing some pictures she is a dead ringer for Hattie.
Jane was bullied all through school and one day it got to be too much for her and she burned it down. After her mother didn’t come get her from her hiding place in root cellar she sneaked out and witnessed her murdered. She then ran away and was taken in by a family. She married and had two children, working at the mill. One day the supervisor tells her he going to make budget cuts by firing people and offers her a job, and then attacks her. Jane is furious and decides to set fire to the mill, not knowing that the doors are barred and they cannot get out.
Further research reveals Jane’s family and that her daughter, Ann Gray, was married and killed in murder-suicide. From there she heads out to the old farmhouse, but it was taken down. She heads to an antique barn and finds a mantel she is drawn to, which turns out to be the mantel Ann Gray was shot in front of.
Hattie takes it home, but when Nate finds out he is furious. He thinks it is strange and ghoulish how Helen is collecting all these dead relics. However, Helen will not stop as she knows she needs to find Hattie’s descendent and save her.
Meanwhile, Olive has been wondering about her mother’s running off and being asking questions. She thinks the rumors surrounding her mother are not true, and starts thinking something took her away, but who? Was it it her father? She heard them fight the night before she was gone. Or was it the secret society her mother was involved in? She never liked the idea of joining clubs, may they wouldn’t let her leave? Or could it be about the missing treasure?
Thoughts After Reading:
I thought the mystery was good, but at the same time the author is starting to get predictable. You know it will involve some supernatural elements, travel back and forth in time, center on women, and in the end someone you thought cared about the main character is really the killer.
This was well paced, but I knew right away as soon as the characters were introduced who it was. It wasn’t bad, but I’m hoping the next one she writes has something new or different.
I did think Helen’s taking of dead relics was extremely creepy. I mean I like the macabre and history, but seriously? It is really weird.
For more by Jennifer McMahon, go to The Night Sister
For more supernatural mysteries, go to North by Northanger (Or, the Shades of Pemberley)
For more treasure hunts, go to High Sea Adventure
For more Not in a Series Mysteries, go to Pretend You Don’t See Her