The Haunted by Niki Valentine is a taught, intense and tightly written thriller about an adventure that goes horribly wrong. Martin and Sue are staying at a luxury hotel in Fort William in November to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary, after a decade of marriage that appears to have given neither what they were looking for from life. Martin wants the two to share an adventure by trekking out to spend a night at a mountain bothy he once stayed at with his parents while a child. Sue thinks this is a bad idea for a number of reasons, some of which are obvious when viewed from the perspective of the alternative, a night in the hotel. But part of her unease is much less easy to tie down, and a sense of foreboding creeps into the narrative before they have even left Fort William.
The trek to the bothy proves tougher and longer than either had anticipated and concludes with a night crossing of a stream that comes close to washing them both away. The weather deteriorates, and by the next day it is clear that the stream is actually a river that will not be crossable again until the level falls. Martin and Sue are stranded together in the bothy, and the tensions between them mount steadily. But are they really alone? Sue begins to think there is a presence in the bothy that is pulling them both back to their most destructive instincts. Or is it something more benign, a chance for Sue to recapture the long long lost true love of her life? And what exactly did happen when Martin was here with his parents all those years ago, and why did he want to return?
"The Haunted" is dark in tone and increasingly dark in content, as Martin and Sue spiral around one another in their descent towards events that threaten their very survival. There are no significant characters other than Martin and Sue in the book, and the sense of claustrophobia this builds in the reader is clearly intended to be a metaphor for the state of their marriage. Genuinely chilling at times and increasingly gripping as the book progresses towards its conclusion, this is a fascinating study of a deeply dysfunctional relationship.