The beginning of Possessed drops the reader right into the stifling life of Rayne, a young London teenager. Her relationships with her mother and boyfriend are dysfunctional, and she’s unable to find a moment’s peace amid the noise and crime of the city. Kate Cann does an excellent job of showing us Rayne’s frayed nerves and her desire to get out of her neighborhood by any means necessary. Desperate, she takes a live-in job at the country estate of Morton’s Keep.
As Rayne settles into her new life, Cann continues to excel at depicting the character’s mental state. When Rayne exults in her freedom, we feel it right along with her; when creepy events occur and Rayne is frightened, we feel that too. Rayne is not always a “nice” girl — she lies a lot, for one — but we are given plenty of reasons to sympathize with her. She makes mistakes, but they’re the kinds of mistakes we’ve all made, especially as teenagers trying to assert our independence.
Rayne uncovers a supernatural mystery and also becomes embroiled in the dramas of a mysterious clique; as the new girl in a small, insular town she inspires interest and jealousy. In a way, Possessed (though much shorter, and written earlier) reminded me of Rosemary Clement-Moore’s The Splendor Falls, which similarly deals with a new girl, a haunted estate, and the love triangles and nasty undercurrents of a rather incestuous circle of friends.
Possessed is an intriguing and entertaining novel, though the pacing is a little off. The romantic subplot moves a bit more quickly than I found realistic, though in Cann’s defense, there does turn out to be an exacerbating factor. Meanwhile, I felt that the ghost story could have been “seeded” a little more heavily in the earlier chapters of the book. We get plenty of spooky moments, but not much backstory until the very end. When the backstory does come, half of it is delivered in a lengthy villain monologue. It might have worked better to have Rayne discover the backstory in bits and pieces throughout the novel.
But while I was disappointed in this one aspect of Possessed, I did enjoy the novel and look forward to the US release of Fire and Rayne, the sequel. I’d love to know more about the sordid history of Morton’s Keep, the Morris-dancing group, and what happens next to Rayne.