Dr. Nigel Taylor is a parapsychologist working at Duke University and studying ghosts and spirits. Nigel is on the verge of losing his funding, however, as scientific study of ghosts is hard to quantify, unlike many of the other paranormal disciplines. So when Nigel is approached by a rich benefactor who wants to fund his research, he is eager to get involved. However, she has some specific terms in exchange for the money. Nigel must work with a ghost-hunting team from the show OutFoxing the Paranormal, who will help analyze and document the spirit activity. The benefactor has also chosen the location Nigel is supposed to study — a house from his past that holds very dark memories.
Oscar Fox leads the OutFoxing the Paranormal team and, unfortunately, the group is financially strapped. When Nigel approaches them about working together, the team is thrilled, as it means not only money, but also the prestige of being associated with Duke’s research, which could pay off in future viewers and funding. The only catch for Oscar is he knows he needs to watch what he says and does in front of Nigel. Oscar’s grandmother was put in an asylum for hearing voices and having visions, and as a child Oscar had similar “episodes.” His father made clear Oscar needed to keep it a secret, lest he too end up taken away to an asylum.
When the group arrives at the house, Oscar and his team set up the equipment and begin to check things out. Almost right away, it is clear something horrifying happened at the home. It is almost as if everyone just picked up and disappeared one day, leaving their belongings just as they were. There are bloodstains on the floor and evidence of spirits throughout the house. When Nigel reveals what happened there years ago, it is terrifying, but if there is even a chance to not only document the spirit activity, but to help the ghosts move along, they are determined to stick it out. But not everyone is happy to have the group in the home and it isn’t long before it is clear that Nigel and Oscar may be in over their heads with vengeful ghosts who don’t want anyone to leave alive.
The Forgotten Dead is the first book in Jordan L. Hawk’s new OutFoxing the Paranormal series and it is wonderfully terrifying ghost story with plenty of thrills and excitement. We know early on that something awful happened in this house, but it takes a little while before we get the reveal as to just how ghastly and horrifying it truly is. I’m talking the “you don’t want to be home alone on a dark night reading this” kind of scary. We also learn early on that Nigel is wary about visiting this particularly house, but we don’t know why or what his connection to it might be. While we learn the history of the house fairly early in the book, this reveal about Nigel’s past comes later and adds another horrifying layer to it all and ramps up the intensity even further. I think Hawk parses all this information out well, giving us hints and bits and pieces that add to the excitement and the sense of foreboding about what really happened in the past, as well as increasing up the intensity for what is going on now. Like I said, this is full on haunted house scary, but with enough of a story surrounding the events of the past and present to round it out well.
Both Nigel and Oscar have some interesting pasts that develop their characters nicely, as well as illustrate the support the men give one another. Nigel has strong feelings of guilt for actions he thinks he should have done differently regarding his connection to the house and Oscar is very supportive, helping him understand that things were not his fault and letting him move past that guilt. For Oscar, he has spent his life hiding his “episodes” after hearing stories of his grandmother being locked away. What Nigel quickly realizes is that the visions and sounds are not in Oscar’s head, but that he is a rare true medium, and is actually seeing and speaking to the spirits. It’s hard at first for Oscar to believe it is ok to talk about all this; he has been so traumatized by his fears. But Nigel reassures him it’s ok, and it doesn’t change Nigel’s feelings at all. It also allows for the story to go in some interesting directions as Oscar begins to explore his medium skills to deal with the spirits in the house.
The relationship isn’t the main focus of the story, but the men do fall for one another and the book ends in a solid HFN. Things happen pretty quickly, as it is only a few days time overall, but I think the intensity of the situation and the fact that the story ends with the guys together, but still casual, helps make it work. The series will continue with more stories for Nigel and Oscar, so I think there is a lot of potential for more in their relationship, as well as more ghostly stories. I am really looking forward to following along.