Pros: Some nice touches that are unusual for the genre
Cons: Just little things here and there
Rating: 4 out of 5
In Ron Ripley’s Moving In (Moving In Series) (Volume 1), Brian and Jenny have just moved into a house in New England with plenty of farmland and a barn. They’ve barely moved in when the weird stuff starts happening. They hear a poacher’s gun going off, go out to check on him, and find him inexplicably dead. Their basement door keeps opening on its own and seems to exhale cold air. Then the furnace technician finds a false wall and a family graveyard in their basement. The supernatural forces at work on the farm waste absolutely no time before hunting the new owners–but some of the ghosts have a different agenda entirely: they want to be freed from the farm and the dark force that trapped them there.
There are some nice bits of humor in this tale, and I like the fact that we have a slightly older couple (37 and 40 years old) without kids. That’s unusual for haunted house tales.
Plus, there was the stress of the move and the whole dead poacher thing.
The characters are a bit of a weird mix between a few stereotypes and surprisingly many full, fascinating people. Most of the stereotypes were limited to side characters, like the ex-cop who can’t give up his donuts despite the diabetes, who can’t get past the suspicion that Brian and Jenny must have killed the poacher who died on their land. I really like Brian–he doesn’t believe in this sort of thing, and believes even less in the spiritualist friend of Jenny’s (Sylvia), but he doesn’t waste time being stupid once it’s in his face. Speaking of Sylvia, her estimate of “9+” ghosts with some extras hanging around the edges is waaaay off, and though iron and salt make good weapons against the dead, they’re hardly foolproof. Some of the ghosts are even nice–silent Mary pours Brian an unexpected drink. Sam, a living man who was childhood friends with “Paul,” one of the nastiest spirits, ends up helping out as well.
“Screw this … This is my house now.”
Sylvia sends her friend Leo Moreland to help out Brian and Jenny by trapping the ghosts and then helping them to find their way to where they’re supposed to go. He’s very odd, but effective. Unfortunately he’s also running out of time–if he doesn’t get home in time, another powerful ghost may be released. I like Leo. His oddities don’t in any way prevent him from being a sympathetic character, nor do they make him infallible. He is a great conduit for upping the stakes, though!
I was expecting your run-of-the-mill haunted house story, and I’m happy to say I got something better. I’m a bit dubious about the follow-on, which seems to involve Brian becoming some sort of ghostbuster, which would seem to indicate a strong tonal change. Still, maybe I’ll take a look at it just to make sure.
NOTE: the author has some free short stories on his (Ron Ripley’s) website.