Ghosts Know — book reviews

GHOSTS KNOW by Ramsey Campbell. PS Publishing £19.99

Reviewed by John Howard

Being a character in a Ramsey Campbell novel is never an easy option. Good, bad, and all shades in between: they’re all in it together and it’s usually hell – or even worse. Graham Wilde in Ghosts Know is no exception. Wilde is the presenter of a radio phone-in show. He stands up for the right things, challenging the views of his callers and refusing to let them get away with sloppy thinking or inaccurate comments. But all too often Wilde seems unable to actually say the right thing, to either his listeners or his friends. His very articulateness continually lets him down, and his rage grows. It’s Down the Line going truly toxic, barely remaining on the rails (or the air).

When a teenage girl goes missing, a psychic is brought in to provide his version of help and comfort. He also gets interviewed on Wilde’s show; the two men have something of a Past. From then on Ghosts Know develops into a narrative of the blackest humour and suspense. The novel is taut and intense. Campbell’s imagery never ceases to startle and makes sure that the reader is always kept off-balance and uncertain – just enough. Questions get answered with more questions; the main characters are always on the edge, ready to fall or get pushed by the unintended consequences of words and actions.

Ghosts Know is a story of seeing and sight. There is what a psychic sees and says he sees; what is seen through the eyes of anger, suspicion, and grief; and what can only be seen when un-regarded pieces finally and laboriously come together and understanding dawns into sight. The truth that Wilde eventually confronts is messy and ambiguous, in contrast to that apparently declared through psychic revelation. And then for our sake (as well as Wilde’s) Ghosts Know doesn’t seem to end entirely in the darkness, but rather in a new light made all the more worthwhile because of what had to be endured in order to be able to see it.