“Death lived within these walls; she could feel it hanging in the air, as tangible as the fog outside.”
Eleanor Harper, as fate would have it, has become the director of an artist’s retreat at Cliffside Manor. That the place and it’s grounds were once ‘a waiting room for death’ (a sanatorium housing adults and children infected with tuberculosis) may well be the reason this ‘peaceful manor’ is anything but. Is it possible suffering clings to the surfaces or is it something more malevolent? Nervous about her inexperience, this change in career is what she needs, as is the escape from her former life as a crime reporter, dealing with the most heinous, viciously murderous crimes. She is beyond burned out and run down, could that be the reason she feels uneasy? Maybe her mind is playing tricks on her?
Nothing could prepare her for what happens to the woman that hired her, nor is she in command when the artists arrive. Eleanor isn’t sure what’s solid, her imagination must be running rampant, seeing things differently than they are, as they would be in the past, an uneasy feeling consuming her from the moment she stepped through the doors of Cliffside Manor. It’s on her now, and she cannot fail. There is an instant attraction to one of the men, a photographer named Richard, but something about the manor’s resident doctor whom she meets prior to the arrivals has her mystified. A wicked force begins to torment the group immediately. As she learns more, she soon realizes everyone chosen, including herself wasn’t random, but just what was Penelope Dare up to? Did she set them up, have nefarious intentions? Why did Penelope have faith in her and leave so much to her, a veritable stranger really? The author plays with a fascinating subject of tuberculosis and sanatoriums then sprinkled in a bit of horror and romance for good measure creating this strange concoction of a thriller. While I enjoyed it, I really wanted more focus on the tuberculosis patients as a haunting and while they have a part in the story, I just didn’t like the evil seed so to speak. I was sold on the terrible heavy sorrows of a place people went to die, all of that would be foreboding and haunting enough but the child… well… that’s my one sore spot here.
Now, the romantic interests… it was creative but the reactions any living person would have would be less ho hum. The revelations were passed over much too fast for my tastes and accepted a bit too easily. But I don’t want to give away the story-line. It’s strange because it’s a thriller, romance, horror, supernatural story and yet not fully any of those things. Any fan of ghost stories and investigative haunting knows hospitals, sanatoriums, and mental asylums have such breathtakingly heavy stories that it seems if there were a place to house tormented ghosts this would be prime real estate. Such abandoned places stand as foreboding shells of their former lives, and what scarier setting for activity and terror? The author picked the perfect atmospheric setting and for whatever reason, throw a lake in and it’s raises the spook factor. Water and ghosts just go together. Creepy children always raise of few hairs on the arms don’t they?
It’s a good little story, while I wasn’t horrified, it was fun. It takes a lot to scare me though and I nitpick horror stories. I think when you have seen too many horror films and know too many ghost legends you scoff at everything. There was just enough to keep me reading to find out what the heck was going on.
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Lake Union Publishing