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Book Review: The Unseen by Alexandra Sokoloff

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I have read all of Alexandra Sokoloff's novels so far, and I can only say she keeps getting better with every book.

In this her third novel, she once again (as in her first one, The Harrowing) chooses an academic environment: the story takes place in Duke University, North Carolina. Our protagonist, Professor Laurel MacDonald, has just arrived from California following a romantic relationship gone sour. In the beginning she has a bit of trouble fitting in her new working environment and soon learns she must publish if she wants to keep her job in such a prestigious institution. Soon she becomes enthralled by mysterious rumors of an ESP study that was conducted on campus by a well-known researcher back in 1965. Intrigued by the whole thing and obsessed by the idea of finding out more, she starts snooping around in the library and discovers a huge set of boxes filled with records documenting the infamous experiment. What she discovers intrigues Laurel even more: apparently, all the people who took part in the experiement died or became insane.

With the help of a charismatic Duke professor, Laurel decides to recreate the experiment in the same location of the original one: a creepy, desolated mansion not far from the university. Together with two students, they move into the house… and so the chills begin.

Is there really a supernatural entity in the house, or is it a hoax? More importantly, is it something created by the human psyche, by the experimenters' minds? Sokoloff does a good job at keeping readers wondering about this.

The story quickly picks up pace once the experiment begins and there are creepy moments and chills aplenty, all the way to the thrilling, fascinating conclusion that will no doubt be loved by some and hated by others, but which really is the most natural ending for Sokoloff's novel.

Sokoloff's beautiful prose and skill at creating atmosphere set the novel apart from the regular 'paranormal thriller.' The story moves at an escalating pace – the more you read, the more you want to read. The characters are for the most part well developed. One thing I particularly enjoyed is all the history and theories about poltergeists. I also feel as though the author spent a lot more time and effort writing this novel; somehow, the writing has a more in-depth feeling than her earlier two. But what truly kept me reading was wondering what was real and what was not. I highly recommend this book to fans of the paranormal. Warning: be sure to keep all your lights on while reading it!

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.