The Ghost of Molly Holt by Amy Cross is a 2017 publication by this very prolific writer of horror fiction. I read a lot of her novels and have never been bored by her writing until this novel. It was probably bound to happen. But I can not resist comparing this novel to her other novels I have read. This one just doesn’t match up as far as quality of plot and characters. So, what happened?
It is not the lack of surprises; there are some interesting ones. But I had to read through twenty chapters before anything typically Cross happened. The first twenty chapters could have been any ghost story told around a campfire at a scouting camp out. Completely unremarkable. Then, in chapter twenty-one the story became interesting. No, you can’t just skip to chapter twenty-one and read a good story. The first chapters are necessary for the last nine chapters to make sense, at least as much sense as a horror story can make. In those first twenty chapters, there are hints of subplots that could have been developed to keep a reader entertained along the way to the main event. They were never developed.
Molly Holt died a gruesome death many years in the past during the making of a snuff film. She was tortured and killed for the amusement of others. Although the film was widely circulated in video stores and later on the internet, the place where she was killed was never determined. Her body was not found but the police were sure that the film was real. It became a high school cool ritual to watch the film. One high school student, Freddy, became obsessed with the film and read all the background material to the story he could find. He even thought he had found the house where Molly was killed.
Freddy wants to convince everyone that he was a hero of his story; he had found the abandoned crime scene. He invites his friend Tim to go to the house one night and look at the proof that Freddy claimed he had found. On the way to the house they met Becky, a girl Tim is smitten with. “Smitten” is a fine word to describe Tim’s feelings for Becky because “smitten” can handle a budding relationship that has no sex. There is no sex in this novel.
For twenty chapters we read of the three arguing about the existence of ghosts. Freddy is convinced that Molly still inhabits the house. Tim is dismissive of the idea but is willing to change his views to accommodate Becky. Becky is a non-believer but willing to change based on evidence convincing to her. Other situations are hinted at. There might be a relationship between Becky and Tim; Tim is not sure of it. Becky might have a bad reputation in school, she may have been abused at home, and she is definitely more mature than Freddy or Tim. But all those things are lightly hinted at and never developed. The reader is left with a twenty-chapter argument of “Yes, ghosts exist” and “No, they don’t” said with increasing voice volume as the speakers get frustrated with each other. Until chapter twenty-one.
With chapter twenty-one, readers begin to see twists and surprises. I like the Cross style of writing so I was only mildly disappointed at the long wait to get to the good stuff. I only gave it three stars on Amazon. While it was overall good, if it were the first Amy Cross novel I read, I would not read another one.