By Marty Mulrooney
Trick or Treat by Sally Anne Morris is a comedic romance novel with a supernatural twist. Lucy Diamond (Lucy Michelle Eleanor Jude Rita Diamond to be exact) is an average girl with an average life, until one day she starts hearing voices and seeing the dead. But just how successfully can she juggle her troubled love life and high maintenance friends alongside her newfound psychic abilities? Happy Halloween to all of Alternative Magazine Online’s readers!
A face appeared less than two inches from her nose and Lucy lurched in shock. The wild brown eyes of an ashen-faced young man bored into hers.
‘At last! I need you to help me!’
Trick or Treat begins with Lucy sitting onboard a London train minding her own business. Suddenly, a stranger in a trench coat turns up begging her for help before seemingly disappearing into thin air. She quickly assumes that he is just another oddball, although she is somewhat intrigued by his request that she pass on a message to a fellow female passenger…
It is soon revealed that the trench coat wearing stranger is actually called Jonathan Rayburn, and the only thing wrong with him is that he’s dead! Lucy has a gift for seeing the dead, something that she could do even as a child when everyone just assumed that she had an imaginary friend. Lucy must come to terms with this spooky new skill and help Jonathan pass on a message to his girlfriend before he passes on to the other side.
Four hours later, all three of them – JoJo, Nigel and Lucy – were on the road to Wales. One of them remained a gibbering wreck for most of the journey but the girls were doing what they could to make Nigel feel better. He was most fortified by the thought of another couple of days off work. What excuse could be better than a friend in need? A friend in need of sectioning!
Lucy’s close friends Nigel – Gay Best Friend and the essential accessory for the noughties, or so he claims – and JoJo – Lucy’s partner in crime since the first day at Our Lady and St Margaret of Cortona’s Gramma School for Girls – are both well written and the trios’ friendship feels 100% believable and genuine throughout. Seeing their relationship’s initial dynamic shift as Lucy starts being visited by ghosts is hilarious and highly entertaining.
Defining Trick or Treat as a romance novel is a slight stretch – it is more of a comedic ghost story with romantic undertones. Some of the best moments in the book involve ghostly goings on that only Lucy can see – a standoff with a ghost in Lucy’s apartment that has Nigel cowering behind the sofa, and an awkward first date with wine throwing itself on a fake jerk’s overly expensive trousers. There is also a chapter involving The Barrockby and District Society for the Academic Study of Anomalous Phenomena and a Ouija board that is full of genuine suspense and is even a little bit frightening at times too.
As Lucy at last gasped in air, a stench filled her nose, strong and stale, like teeth long uncleaned. It was a smell you could taste. Then blows seemed to rain down on her chest, her face, her arms, and the force pushed her this way and that like a boneless rag doll whilst the others struggled to keep her hand firmly in place.
There are admittedly some dud notes, such as Lucy’s stereotypically negligent-but-well-meaning hippy mother, and not all of the jokes hit their mark. However, this is a book crammed absolutely full of pop culture references and witty observations. I was sent a review copy upon release just over two years ago and it has taken me this long to pick it up from my to-read pile simply because it has been marketed in a rather girly fashion – I’m obviously not the intended target audience. Which just goes to show that you should never judge a book by its cover. Trick or Treat is very British, very funny, occasionally spooky and ultimately, rather touching. In short, a perfect Halloween read for the girls – and perhaps a guilty Halloween pleasure for the boys.
9 OUT OF 10