February 9, 2015

This Old, Angry House: a review of "Elderwood Manor" by Christopher Fulbright and Angeline Hawkes

Elderwood Manor
by Christopher Fulbright and Angeline Hawkes
DarkFuse (2014)
132 pages

Available at Amazon.com

Nothing like a good ghost story for a night of fun.

With my first chance to read a story by the collaborative efforts of Fulbright & Hawkes, I was curious to see what it was they brought the table. In this novella, a father and son wind up under the roof of the father's childhood home, which is in some unsurprisingly disrepair, as the matriarch has been alone in the mansion for years. And it becomes rapidly apparent that a malevolent force has been keeping her company.

The despondent state of the father, reeling from the death of his wife and left to raise their son alone, newly unemployed and penniless and even evicted, is practically radiating off the page. It's this aspect that creates and compounds much of the emotional turmoil through the first half of the story, as the table is set for the main course of supernatural shenanigans.

However, the spirit dwelling in the mansion and its apparent fixation on the young son didn't feel quite as perilous as I had expected. With all the atmosphere built up in almost luxurious descriptions of the family's surroundings, I found myself expecting something a bit more epic in terms of the stakes ... or perhaps just more original. It was a rewarding tale in the end, but it certainly felt familiar in its unveiling. The payoff helps by giving some resonance to the motivations of all parties, but there was just that nagging feeling much of the way through reading that I'd been down this path before.

Paranormal fans with ravenous appetites should look it up, but if you're interested in the absolute top tier of the haunted house genre, I'd dare say there are more appealing options out there. Still, far from disappointing, and I have a couple more Fulbright and Hawkes books sitting on my shelf that I'm keen to check out down the line.

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