Petra’s Ghost by C.S. O’Cinneide

Petra's Ghost


Petra’s Ghost
by C.S. O’Cinneide

288 Pages

Horror/Thriller/Mystery/Fiction

Published by Dundurn (20th July 2019)

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My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Dundurn, and the author via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

El Camino. The Way. Camino De Santiago. It has many names, the 500 mile journey across Northern Spain that is a spiritual as well as physical journey to the many who take on the pilgrimage each year. Our story centers around Daniel, an Irishman who is seemingly lost in the abyss after his wife passed away, he carries her ashes in his backpack aiming to scatter them at some point on his journey, though it appears letting go is not as easy for him as he thinks. Especially considering he knows how his wife, Petra, really died.
When he meets Virginia, a bouncy, California native who is also undertaking the pilgrimage, they strike up a friendship and spend more time traversing the trail together than not. Though something strange is happening. A nightmare presence appears to be following them, making Daniel question his sanity at every turn. Who is this person who appears in the night, stalking the pair along the road to Santiago? Will they make it to the end? Or will steal that luxury from them?

I enjoyed this book WAY more than I thought I would. I originally requested it because that synopsis is super intriguing. I’d never heard about El Camino before, and I have to say, even though this story had unsettling horror elements weaved into it, I feel inspired to the point that I would love to take the 500 mile pilgrimage to Santiago, though if I’m honest, I’ll probably die before I pass the 15 mile mark as I’m so unfit it’s ridiculous, one can dream though, right?

So! Daniel is taking the pilgrimage, after which, he is meant to head home to Ireland to tend to the family farm, first he has to finish his journey, sell his and his deceased wife’s home in New Jersey and sell the company that he built up from the ground, but first, he must finish his journey, which he has taken in order to scatter his late wife’s ashes, but first, he has to find the right spot to do so. Do you see a running theme here? It’s easy to tell, straight off the bat, that Daniel is having a hard time letting go of the life that once was, letting go of his wife who passed away just over a year ago, and attempting to have some semblance of a life. The thing is, he is wracked with guilt, because he knows how Petra really died, and he struggles with the knowledge daily. I actually liked Daniel’s character, he was incredibly real to me. I couldn’t imagine having to try and move on with life after your partner, whom you loved, had left the land of the living way before they should have. So I could sympathise with Daniel’s stubbornness in letting go, it didn’t stop me from wanting to throttle the man a few times however.

When he meet Virginia, or Ginny, as her friends call her, he is thankful for the distraction she brings. The conversation, the companionship, two make the road shorter, after all. Ginny was an interesting character, who also annoyed the tripe out of me at times, but I still enjoyed her. There’s also this Dutch guy that they run into on their travels and who keeps popping up every now and again, who, to be honest, I think he was my favourite character. Something about Rob the Dutchman just made me smile. We meet other characters on Daniel’s journey but I felt that they were mainly supporting roles and I don’t have much to say about them. I felt that all the characters written in this story were done exceptionally well, and there’s not one that I would have cut out. They all had a role to play, and they played it to perfection.

I loved the historical and travellog feel that this book had. We are treated to scenery descriptions that made me feel like I was actually there, seeing what Daniel was seeing, hearing what he was hearing. We follow Daniel every step of the way, and it actually felt like he was a real person. The historical information, I felt, was well researched and explained, and I really feel like I went away from this book having learnt a lot (as well as gaining that pesky want to walk the trail that I know I never could without vigorous life changes).

The horror aspect that was weaved through the story was done SO well. So many instances left me with major creep vibe, to the point that it felt like I had spiders crawling up my spine, and I felt like the horror really hit in another aspect as well, it made me question Daniel’s sanity. Was he just delirious from the distance he was travelling? Was the exhaustion taking a toll on not only his body, but his mind as well? Wondering if you are going slowly crazy is a horror unto itself I believe.

I had an inkling on what a couple of the twists were going to be, and I was right, but I didn’t know the how of said twists. So it was great finally getting the reveal and the answers as to how the things I thought might have been happening actually happened. I don’t want to go into too much detail here because I feel like it would totally ruin the story.

One thing that I did find annoying was grammar mistakes in the narrative and dialogue. I noticed that there a lot of sentences in the dialogue started with “Sure….” even though it didn’t grammatically make sense, also there were a lot of “after being” inserted randomly into dialogue sentences, as well as the word “so” which was commonly used at the end of sentences when it wasn’t needed. I’m not sure if it’s a language thing that I’m missing or if it was just a formatting error somehow, it did jolt me out of the narrative quite a bit and annoyed my little gramma nazi soul. It didn’t detract from the book greatly, it just made the narrative lose flow and seem a bit messy to me. An example of it is below:

“I fell,” Daniel says. “Sure, am I right to go now?”
“I thought I was after being the strong one.”
“Are you after doubting my male hormones?”
“Are we going to talk about this, so?”

Just a few examples I highlighted to explain what I mean.

This book wasn’t just a travelogue with horror elements mixed in, it really makes you think about the weight of guilt; of the need to let go of the past, even though it might tear us apart to do so. I feel like a lot of us hold on to things (not counting lost loved ones, as I believe that you never quite get over the loss of the love one, you have to re-learn how to live again without them) that no longer serve them and it drains the life out of them. It makes their lives seem like dull shades of grey instead of the technicolour richness that surrounds us daily. They say that hiking the Camino De Santiago is a spiritual journey, and I really feel that this story shows that (yes in an extraordinary, maybe partially unrealistic way – see the horror aspect of it) we got to watch a man work through things that were troubling him and got to an ending that left me with a smile, and some serious need to research El Camino more because I’m honestly considering making the pilgrimage myself one day (this want will probably disappear over a couple of weeks, but we’ll see 😉 )

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