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Review: The Seeker by R.B. Chesterton

The Seeker
The Seeker
The Seeker


Highlights: Readers will be on the edge of their seats trying to figure out the truth of the mystery surrounding the child that Aine keeps seeing in the woods by Walden Pond.
Synopsis: Aine Cahill's many-times-great aunt Bonnie kept a journal in which she describes being Henry David Thoreau's secret lover. Aine wants to find proof of her aunt's claims, but what she finds instead shakes her to her very core.



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Quick pace and excellent end-of-chapter hooks.


Fans of the Transcendentalists and Walden Pond may find it difficult to believe Thoreau could be anyone's secret lover, but they should not let this stop them from reading the book.

Posted March 10, 2014 by

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Photography by John Adams with Adams Imaging

Photography by John Adams with        Adams Imaging

For anyone who has ever visited Concord, Massachusetts, the words “murder,” “mystery,” and “suspense” are not usually the terms associated with the sleepy little place that was once home to such notable greats as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the Alcott family. Yet, those words and that Walden Pond setting are the substance of The Seeker by R.B. Chesterton, author Carolyn Haines’s alter ego. The Seeker is the second hair-raising tale Haines has released under her Chesterton pseudonym, following The Darkling.


Aine Cahill has come to Walden Pond to research her doctoral thesis. Bonnie Cahill, her many-times-great aunt, wrote a journal about her time in Concord, and more specifically, her time as Thoreau’s secret lover. Thoreau went to Walden to “live deliberately,” which he did for two years, two months, and two days.

Thoreau's famous quote at the site of his dwelling on Walden Pond. Photo by Mollie Waters

Thoreau’s quote at the site of his dwelling on Walden Pond. Photo by Mollie Waters

Supposedly, Thoreau’s time at Walden was spent in solitude, though it was well-known that he often had visitors and occasionally walked to town. But a secret lover? Aine knows that her aunt’s startling revelations will bring the literary community to its knees, but she must corroborate the journal, as the only proof of the illicit love affair, hence her research in Concord.

At the bed and breakfast style inn where she stays, Aine befriends Dorothea, the owner, and Patrick, who does odd jobs for Dorothea. Only 19, Patrick has a school boy’s crush on Aine, and while he seems pretty cocky and confident, Aine knows she must focus on the work at hand. However, focusing is a difficult task when someone as attractive as Joe Sinclair is around. Joe, the park ranger at Walden Pond, is smitten with Aine as well, but his dark past and current entanglements threaten to stand in the way of any romantic hopes the two may have.

Part of Joe’s history involves an ex-girlfriend named Karla, who is on drugs and out of touch with reality. Seeing Joe with a new woman sets Karla off, and Aine becomes her new favorite target. As if Karla were not enough for Aine to worry about, she learns that Joe had been a science teacher at the local school when one of his favorite students, Mischa Lobrano, disappeared without a trace. Joe was a person of interest in the case, but no one could prove he had anything to do with it. Still, suspicion surrounds Joe at every turn, and when Aine, who has the inherited gift of second sight, begins seeing a young blonde-haired child roaming the woods and trying to entice her into playing games, Aine wonders if this spirit child is Mischa seeking help or something much darker and more sinister. Although Aine’s grandmother warned her that “The dead are liars,” Aine has a hard time dealing with her many supernatural visitors. With threats from the spirit world and the real one coming at Aine, can she survive her sojourn at Walden Pond, or will she suffer the same mysterious fate as her ancestor before her?


As a fan of Carolyn Haines’s darker works, I admit that I eagerly await her R.B. Chesterton books. However, as a scholar of the Transcendentalist authors, and after having spent a week in Concord studying their works through a grant program, I was a bit skeptical about how much I was going to like The Seeker. The idea of Thoreau having a secret lover felt a little like sacrilege to me, but it is well-known that Thoreau had an infatuation with a local girl, and most scholars agree that Louisa May Alcott adored the older man. Still, Thoreau as secret lover? Walden Pond as the backdrop of all that is deliciously creepy in Haines’s books? Yes. And even better, it works!


Henry David Thoreau re-enactor at Walden Pond. Photo by Mollie Waters

Henry David Thoreau re-enactor at Walden Pond. Photo by Mollie Waters

While I thought that the relationship between Bonnie Cahill and Henry David Thoreau would be an issue, Haines handles it magnificently, with a surprising twist. Always one to build suspense, Haines never gives too much away at once, which keeps readers on the edge of their seats.

Also, the author brilliantly puts just enough scary details into the work for readers to get a little afraid of the dark if they are reading the book late at night. For example, when Aine encounters the ghost child in the middle of the woods, the child explains,

‘Where I live now, names aren’t so important. Understanding is.’ She didn’t seem to move, yet she was standing in front of me…In the lamplight, her eyes were as black and bottomless as those in the scrimshaw.

At that point, I had to put the book down and wait for the safety of daylight to begin reading again.

Haines often sets her works in the South, but in The Seeker, she goes outside her comfort zone and puts the reader in the middle of a brutal Massachusetts winter. One almost feels the cold as she describes an incident in which Aine becomes stranded in a storm.

Everything familiar had vanished under a covering of soundless white. Heavy clouds obscured the starlight and the white cold obliterated my senses. It seemed I’d gone deaf and mute and blind. I was completely alone.

Just released last week, The Seeker has a great mix of mystery, suspense, and murder. Readers will not understand that they are under a spell that the author has carefully crafted until they have the rug pulled from beneath them at the very end. Another enjoyable work by Carolyn Haines as R.B. Chesterton, The Seeker is sure to please anyone who likes a good scare.

Mollie Smith Waters

Mollie Smith Waters teaches American literature, theater, and speech at a small community college in rural Alabama. Her hobbies include reading, writing, traveling, and walking.