[Book Review] The Waiting Room (F.G. Cottam, 2010) ★★★☆☆

book cover The Waiting Room by F.G. Cottam 2010

The Waiting Room unravels a sinister mystery with fine tread. 

The Waiting Room is a supernatural ghost story with a malicious twist. It has the structure of a mystery that unfolds in a sinister way and has some horror elements. The focus is on the mystery of the past and how it unravels and is connected with what is happening now. For those who like a scary mystery without becoming too much of a horror, this book is a pleasant read that has a surprising twist, that turns a standard ghost story into something new. 


Martin Stride, a former rockstar lives with his wife Monica and two children Millie and Peter on a large secluded estate when he calls in the help of Julian Creed. Julian Creed is a tv host of a paranormal tv show who’s a fake. His special effects woman and his personal assistant Elena Cross both turn this show and Creed in a highly believable performance. Now Stride needs his help after some strange and threatening events, but he doesn’t know Creed is a fraud. 

When Creed agrees, he thinks it’s the new big episode of his tv show, but when he encounters the old haunted waiting room of the railroad, on the estate, he might be in over his head. While Elena researches the old building she finds out some gruesome and terrifying things that go even beyond the haunting of ghosts and turns into something much more sinister. 

Why you should read it

The Waiting Room reads more like a detective into the paranormal with discoveries of the past, a group of people who are connected and how it all does connect with the waiting room than a real horror. The structure is all about the discoveries Elena makes and the haunting experiences Creed goes through and how they are connected. The structure doesn’t have a creepy horror buildup, nor are the events very scary. But the story behind it, is of true horror. But while it is merely speculatively described and plays out in a distant past, it mostly stays abstract. The horror scenes that are bringing the past back to life, are sporadical and only at the ending of the story. 

It’s a creepy tale that speaks to the imagination but doesn’t get all too scary. It is therefore a perfect read for those who like creepy mysteries that are about ghosts and the occult but don’t take it that far that it becomes a full on horror. 

The characters don’t have much depth except for Creed who redeems himself after having been a fraud all his life, but that’s just a small part of the story to make him somewhat more likable. The story therefore isn’t about the characters and character development but purely about the mystery behind the waiting room. Although the mystery is explained for the most part, some parts stay elusive or don’t become very clear and the reader has to fill in some gaps on their own. 

The writing style is pleasant and it’s an easy read. It’s a very accessible book for a big audience that loves mystery and a bit of horror. The twist brings something extra to the story and takes the horror beyond a standard ghost story which is very interesting, but still it’s a bit meagre. I would have liked to read more about the occult practices and some more graphical horror. 

The story, the mystery itself is unraveled in a great way, each time lifting a bit more of the sinister veil. It’s a ‘the plot thickens style’, that slowly connects different events and people together to eventually make up the whole complex story, just like a puzzle. Through lettres, and notes, things are falling into place which results in a sinister twist. 

My favorite part

When Elena is sent to Italy to research more abut Absalom, a very elusive figure, then things are starting to take a very different turn. I liked her character but she was mostly overruled by Creed and even Martin. Now it was all about her, although she could have been more fleshed out at that moment. Still the scene at the cemetery I found much more creepy and strange than the haunting in the waiting room, because that’s what you expect. In Italy awaits her a surprise. 

I also liked the occult twist, which I won’t spoil, but it is certainly something very different than you expect. Most ghost stories can be a bit tedious, because every ghost story is about unfinished business, the same hauntings, revenge, or something demonic. But this one is different and it’s always nice to find a ghost story that will surprise you. I love ghosts stories and it’s all about the mystery and you don’t want it to be the same things every time, it gets predictable. So The Waiting Room is a book that you will enjoy vey much if you are looking for a different ghost story with a little horror and a lot of mystery.

A favorite quote

‘The pale face outside the window was very still now. It could not have been taken any longer for a patch of light fur on the flank of some nocturnal creature. It watched the visitor within and the eyes above its leer of a mouth did not blink. Its features showed no curiosity or surprise. It just watched without any expression at all.’


Rating: ★★★☆☆

Scare factor: ★★☆☆☆

Originality factor: ★★★☆☆

Entertainment factor: ★★★★☆


The Waiting Room is written by F.G. Cottam and first published by Hodder & Stoughton, Hachette in 2010. It consists of 294 pages. 

book cover The Waiting Room by F.G. Cottam 2010

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