Mini Review: The Invited by Jennifer McMahon

About mini reviews:

Maybe you’re not an audio book person, or maybe you are. I provide mini reviews of audio books and give a recommendation on the format. Was this book improved by a voice actor? Would a physical copy have been better? Perhaps they complement each other? Read on. . .

The Invited is my second Jennifer McMahon (she/her) audiobook (the first was The Drowning Kind). I’m seeing some consistency! McMahon appears to enjoy ghost stories that aren’t horrifying and the way history just won’t quit pestering the present. In The Invited, Helen’s father dies and leaves her some money, so she and husband Nate quit their school teacher jobs and buy some land near a bog to build their own house. Themselves. I can’t imagine building a house on such unstable, you know, boggy ground, but it’s not my house!

Helen, who taught history, discovers the story of Hattie Breckenridge, who was hanged in the early 1900s in their bog for being a witch. As the town shares more tales about Hattie’s ghost, Helen investigates with the help of her teen neighbor and in direct opposition to her husband’s feelings about the paranormal stuff. Soon, elements of the house — a beam, some bricks, a mantle — are constructed with found materials. “Found,” that is, as Helen bought them when she realized they were connected with horrible deaths. She’s literally building a haunted house.

The audio is narrated by Amanda Carlin and Justine Eyre. Once of the voice actors reads a single chapter, and I could not decide why she did. The chapters switch narrators several times with the same audio narrator, so I thought this an odd choice. Therefore, I’m not sure which name really deserves all the credit. Anyway, the entire thing is read beautifully, clearly, and I didn’t struggle to hear or have to turn the volume knob up and down.

I enjoy how McMahon gets the main character running around doing research in the name of ghostly events, so if you’re a fan of hearing stories about the past and linking clues, you’ll enjoy The Invited too. I did have most of the ending figured out, but only because the limited cast gives us a Scooby Doo number of who-dunnit options. The only aspect I didn’t like was how the husband, Nate, was mad at Helen for doing research, even though he married a historian. Was his characterization there to add tension, to make Helen more secretive, or because he was afraid of real ghosts despite his claims to the contrary? And yet the scope of murdered Hattie’s influence, and the reason she’s haunting Helen, was captivating. I found myself getting a bit spacey while driving; never a good sign for me but a positive one for the author.

CW: suicide and violence off the page, murder

25 comments

  1. A bog is definitely an interesting location to build a house. Make things extra difficult on yourself, why don’t ya? I could understand living on the edge of a bog. Bogs are cool. However, I feel zero need to live IN a bog. Unless, when I am old and crabbier, I want to BECOME the bog witch. That would be kind of fun. I will leave my options open.

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  2. Having seen people around here build houses in spots I would consider dangerously close to the ocean, I don’t find it unbelievable that someone would build a house literally in a big. But why would you want a haunted house? Is she actually hoping to summon a ghost or does she just think it’s cool from a historical perspective?

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  3. Developers are forever building whole suburbs on bogs – hence the expression draining the swamp – and of course ruining our waterways, for which bogs are often filters, in the process. Anyway, people build everywhere, there’s just too many of us. For instance it would be unthinkable in Australia to build houses on the beach as they seem to in California (I get my information from Two and a Half Men).

    As a fellow audiobook consumer I have recently been using BorrowBox, but I have been advised to switch to Libby which apparently has a wider selection. We’ll see.

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    • I keep reading about how the U.S. has a housing crisis, but there are more than enough houses already constructed in the U.S. to house everyone. The issue is it’s largely landlords buying houses and then renting them at ridiculous prices, which prevents families from being able to purchase a home at a reasonable cost.

      I’m not sure what houses on the water look like in California, but in Michigan everyone wants to build on the Great Lakes. Now that climate change is getting more severe, the coastal lines in Michigan are receding, and houses are falling into the lakes.

      Why wouldn’t people build a house along the beach in Australia?

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  4. I think I might end up on Nate’s side on this one, despite my better instincts – there’s “marrying an historian” and then there’s “consenting to live in a deliberately constructed haunted house” and I do not feel that the latter is necessarily implied in the firmer!

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    • Ha! I can just hear it: “You’re not the person I married. In fact, you’re not a person and four ghosts!” I do enjoy McMahon’s novels for the way she has spooky content plus history (often around 1900, which I know is yesterday in England time) plus a mystery in which the main character is trying to figure out how the past and present connect.

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  5. Ha, there’s this house Claire and I run past all the time that’s being built on a slope RIGHT BY THE CANAL with only a thin retaining wall catching the soil. We are aghast every time we run past it. How did that get approved?!

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    • I was telling Bill recently that around the Great Lakes of Michigan that people’s houses are falling into the lake because climate change is causing more erosion. He seemed perplexed, as people do not build their house right on the ocean in Australia. It does make me wonder how close some people need to be to be happy.

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  6. I’ve only read a few of her books, but I find this author’s writing genuinely scary in such a creepy way. IN fact, i have to be careful when I read her, I shouldn’t be home alone because I freak myself out. Building a haunted house? NO THANK YOU.

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