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The Strange, Mysterious Summer Hotel on Dagger Island!

 

 

New Hampshire author Jennifer Anne Gordon studied acting at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, and has worked as an actress, magician’s assistant, artist (painting and collage, photography, and art model), dancer and writer. Her books to date – BEAUTIFUL FRIGHTENING AND SILENT, VICTORIANA, and her Hotel series, of which FROM DAYLIGHT TO MADNESS is book 1, soon to be followed by book 2 – WHEN THE SLEEPING DEAD STILL TALK. Jennifer’s genre and passion – Gothic horror!

How an author is able to clutch the reader with an emotionally compelling beginning attests to the powers Jennifer wields as a writer/poet. Her insights as a poet surface on page one with Tennyson’s poem: ‘Willows whiten, aspens quiver, Little breezes dusk and shiver Through the wave that runs for ever By the island in the river Flowing down to Camelot. Four grey walls, and four grey towers, Overlook a space of flowers, And the silent isle imbowers The Lady of Shalott.’ That atmospheric poem opens a Prologue: ‘He cried for about three minutes, his little voice sounded powerful at first, fighting and strong, His cries found their way to her ears, which had always been so desperate for love. His strange sounds immediately sounded like home, and like love, but those sounds very quickly changed. Of course, it all happened so fast, she did not even know it was a ‘him’ at this point. It was just crying, just screaming. Just home…’ This episode of a newborn with umbilical cord strangulation at birth sets the tone for the mystery that follows.

Some excerpts from the author’s website outline of the plot, revealing the following: ‘In the late spring of 1873, Isabelle gave birth to her son Oscar, he cried for three startling minutes, and then went silent. During the months that follow, Isabelle is drugged and lulled into an almost hallucinatory world of grief and fear. Her life begins to feel as though it exists in a terrifying new reality separated from those around her. When her grieving begins to make her husband, Henry, uncomfortable, he and his mother conspire to send Isabelle away to a Summer Hotel on Dagger Island, where she can rest and heal. While they are adamant that the hotel is not an asylum and that Isabelle will be able to return eventually to her home, Isabelle understands in her heart that it is all a lie. That perhaps, everything about being a woman in this time, may have always been a lie. The Hotel, of course, is not what it seems, and the foreboding Dagger Island begins to feel more like a prison than a retreat. Isabelle hears relentless sounds coming from the attic above her room, and the ever-present cries of small children scream in her head almost constantly. Are they hallucinations, or are they connected to the small cemetery she found, filled with the fresh dirt of little graves, the brokenhearted reminders of people that no one believes ever existed? She meets a fellow guest at the Hotel, a young, enigmatic, and deeply damaged priest, named Francis. Together they teeter on the edges of reality and try desperately to become free from the fates that their pasts have bound them to.’

A superb Victorian Gothic horror story that manages to seduce the reader into another era, this is a most successful opening to a series that should find not only awards for masterful writing, but also attract a large audience of dark fantasy lovers! Highly recommended.


~Grady Harp