|Angel Manor (Lucifer Falls Book 1)
Horrific Tales Publishing (November 2014)
I love a good haunted house story. Shirley Jackson‘s The Haunting of Hill House remains one of my favorite novels and one of my favorite films (the original, of course). I was thrilled to finally read The Shining recently. It’s a classic for a reason and one of King’s best (and better than the film, in my opinion). And then there are the sillier haunted house films that I love, especially House on Haunted Hill (again, the original).
So, I was somewhat excited to receive a free copy of Chantal Noordeloos’ debut novel Angel Manor through LibraryThing‘s Early Reviewer program. Haunted house plus scary nuns? Sounds good to me.
And the general plot is decent. Our protagonist Freya inherits a large, old house from her aunt and goes to check it out with her best friends Bam and Oliver. They have plans to turn it into a hotel (it’s that big). But Freya is skeptical. Her aunt was disturbed, living here her whole life, and the house drove Freya’s mother away, terrified of it. Should they move in and rehab the place?
Not if you’ve read the prologue. All kinds of demony business has happened in this house over the years, and now that there’s fresh blood on the property (literally), it’s ready to do more.
With a set-up like that, and a pretty decent beginning, I was really disappointed that the book didn’t follow through. Noordeloos’s writing starts fairly strong, and for the first half of the book, the story’s compelling, but it lacks a mature voice and suffers what seems to be common with first novels, in that the writing loses its punch as things go along.
The story’s also an odd mix of soap opera and grotesque horror set pieces and it has trouble maintaining a balance between these elements. Part of the problem I had was that Noordeloos’s main characters feel more like teenagers than adults in their twenties, and I grew impatient with them, eventually caring more about what happens to the crew of workers (mostly real teenagers) who come in to work on the house. Maintaining suspense and horror is challenging, even more so when the reader doesn’t care about what happens to the main characters (doubly so, when the writer kills off the best one)
Another problem I had with Angel Manor was that the grotesqueness done to the female characters is much more gruesome (and this is a gruesome book) than what happens to the men. That’s a stereotype I’m tired of.
And then the ending just wouldn’t end. The final chapter finishes and the reader is faced with an epilogue and the reminder that this is the first book in a series. Endings are hard, but there should be one.