Psychologist Dr. Maxwell Stein has just arrived at the office to catch up on paperwork when a mysterious woman arrives and hands him her journal and asks him to read it. He recognizes her as Olivia Croft, a patient he treated for anxiety when she was just 10 years old. She imparts a strange message, and before he can question her further, she is gone. He soon learns the truth: Olivia Croft has just died, and he has been visited by her ghost.
Soon after, Max goes on vacation to the Hamptons with his teenage son, Sean. He brings Olivia’s journal along with him and begins reading voraciously. Each entry, he discovers, features a memory from Olivia’s life in which she encountered a ghost. She had wanted to tell him that when she was a child she was in touch with the spirit world, but was too afraid. As he reads page after page, the journal begins to have a strange effect on Max. He experiences visions and weird, violent impulses. Sean notices and reaches out for help, but is he too late?
The journal entries read like a series of haunted vignettes, and the scenes depicting Dr. Stein’s increasing agitation build a chilling suspense. Monique Gliozzi’s descriptions of Olivia’s ghostly encounters are terrifying—she is nearly drowned in a swimming pool, left to die in a pit, and nearly crashes a plane due to her unexpected and unwanted visitations. There are certainly tinges of horror to the story, though the author refrains from gore or over-the-top scares, preferring a subtle escalation of an underlying terror instead.
VESTIGE also poses some interesting philosophical questions. Is it possible that some of those we believe to be mentally ill are in fact just in touch with another plane of existence? How much of our lives are based on fate and how much free will? Do those who die with unfinished business on earth look to the living for help and closure? Of course, readers must answer these questions for themselves, but the fact that Gliozzi raises them elevates the novel beyond a simple scare fest.
There are several twists involved in the plot, particularly in Max Stein’s storyline, to the extent that it is nearly impossible to predict where things are going to end up. As a result, the final scene seems slightly abrupt and unearned. But if readers don’t care for the ending, they will likely still enjoy the journey.
VESTIGE, a smart and engaging ghost story by Monique Gliozzi offers plenty of genuine chills, and while the ending may not please everyone, the overall book is highly entertaining.
~Lisa Butts for IndieReader