Palace of Ghosts by Thomas S. Flowers
Publisher: Shadow Work Publishing | Release Date: March 5, 2019 | Pages: 210
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Palace of Ghosts by Thomas S. Flowers is a Gothic haunted house novel that is as disturbing as it is heartbreaking. Shining a light on the reality of veterans and the trauma they deal with after coming home from war, Flowers points out that maybe trauma can manifest into something that can haunt you- metaphorically and literally.
Palace of Ghosts takes place in a supposedly haunted house in Galveston. Dr. Frederick Peters is desperate to prove that his exposure theory hypothesis can cure Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He brings together four people who have all served in Iraq: Samantha, a former K-9 handler looking for a way to put her loss behind her; Brad, a former Military Police Officer severally wounded in the war and who wants nothing more than a good night's sleep; Andy, a former drone operator who once watched the war from above now questions who he has become; and Marcus, a Marine who desperately wants a dead friend's forgiveness. They are joined by the doctor's assistants, Tiffany and Dexter. At first, their stay seems to conjure up nothing more than a few spooky encounters. But Amon Palace is gathering it's powers and soon it will reveal that these veterans are not who they seem.
This is an extremely powerful and haunting novel. The topic of Mental Health and our veterans seems to be such a taboo, yet these men and women are suffering in silence. This book does an amazing job at shedding light on PTSD and the devastating and different effects it can have on someone. I feel the author did the soldiers justice in my opinion. They were characterized fairly accurately. And his descriptions of the soldiers were deep. You could feel the terror, the guilt, the trauma, the pain. I'm not an expert, but I personally suffer from PTSD, not from being in a war, but I have a close family member who was in special ops/black ops for 20 yrs. These people are trained to not talk. They are not allowed to. And the effects of not being able to share what you have seen or done, not getting the proper psychological help can truly be horrific. And that is definitely well depicted in this book.
Now, are there actual scares? Absolutely! The author's description of the house in itself is creepy — the sights, the sounds, the smells. He is able to bring Amon Palace to life. I think there were a few nods to Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House scattered through the book. The intensity starts at the very beginning of the novel and is slightly ramped up, chapter by chapter. And the spookiness of the house is always present in every situation..
I also enjoyed how Flowers threw the norm out the window and decided to sort of “Tarantino” the story by starting the novel at the end and working backwards. The pacing was steady and strong and I think telling the story from multiple points of view was done incredibly well and helped the story progress. You can see and hear things through the veterans POV and how their therapy begins to unravel into a living nightmare.
I also have to mention the subtle Lovecraft influences that are here and there throughout the book, which I loved!
Palace Of Ghosts packs quite a few punches, some straight to your gut, some to your heart. This is a phenomenal ghost story that seems to be a very personal tale to Thomas S. Flowers. It's apparent that there was a lot of love, pain, understanding, and empathy put into this book. I applaud his vulnerability that helped create such a well rounded horror story, with a strong, real world message behind it.