Halloween has come and gone, so it’s understandable if scary stories have jumped your own personal shark. That’s okay, because John Searles’s Help for the Haunted (Morrow, $27) is about as far from a ghost story as a story about ghostbusters could get.

Fourteen-year-old Sylvie Mason is under the guardianship and siege of her tempestuous older sister Rose after the mysterious murder of their parents, famous Catholic demon-disspellers killed in a church basement. The key to that mystery is somewhere within Sylvie, though she can’t quite grasp it.

The spooky trappings of Haunted only serve to amplify the dark but numinous atmosphere of the Mason home, where nearly a year after their death, the elder Masons’ exorcism equipment calls to Sylvie from the basement. As the story zips back and forth through time, it’s rarely clear what’s real and what’s not, though one thing is for sure: The “literal” bedevilment the Masons cast from other houses is nothing compared to what’s in their own.

As Sylvie—who discovered her murdered parents—tries to understand that happened that night, she finds it difficult to stay tethered to reality. But does her best to clear the fog around the Masons, looking for answers not just to the murder, but to the dark mystery of a fractured family.

See John Searles reads from his book at two free events:

  • Nov. 10, at Barnes and Noble, 720 Hawthorn Center, Vernon Hills 
  • Nov. 11, at Tuscan Wine Market, 41 W. Wing St, Arlington Heights