Since I am always on a quest to find the best in new horror fiction, I was happy to have another review copy of a novella from Samhain Publishing. This novella was by an author that I had read recently and was looking forward to sampling some of his other works so I was eager to dive right in. “Apartment 7C” by David Bernstein seemed to be an intriguing novella and I was hoping that it would live up to the promise of the author’s other works.
Beth Baker decided that her house was just too big when her husband died. She is eighty-two-years old and just cannot keep up with the cleaning and upkeep of the house. When she finds an apartment in a good part of town, she thinks that she has found the perfect place to spend her waning years. The fact that there is a police detective that lives next door makes her feel even safer. She does not know that the sense of security she got from moving in next door to the detective would soon turn into a nightmare that would haunt her day and night.
Beth had lost her daughter to an abusive man years earlier and realizes that the sounds of fighting she hears next door are the sounds of the detective abusing his wife. When Beth reaches out to the woman to try and save her from her daughter’s fate, she is drawn in to a world of violence that she never imagined she would ever enter. Beth had kept her silence about her daughter’s abuse until it was too late. Now she must do whatever was necessary to keep history from repeating itself.
“Apartment 7C” starts off very strong. The reader is able to quickly relate with Beth and the sense of unavoidable disaster fills the novella. Although brief, the episodes of Beth listening to the violence next door were a little shocking in that it is all too believable that this would be happening and the neighbors would continue to ignore it. This really is the true horror of the story. The reader comes to understand Beth a little better when the secret of her daughter is revealed and Beth is spurned into action. The tension builds nicely through Beth’s steps at intervention and then the nightly visitations (hallucinations?) of her daughter’s ghost the finally gets her to take action. At this point, the reader knows that Beth is planning something fairly drastic and the tension is thick. I would rate the novella as one of the best up until this point.
The tension and momentum of the start of the novella does not carry through, however, and the climax of the story left me feeling flat. While the abuser gets what he deserves in the end, I just do not feel like the action taken by Beth does not fit well with the rest of the story and is even a bit contradictory. Now, this could admittedly be just my personal judgment of the situation but it really is a case of the end not justifying the means. I do not want to go into the details of what Beth does, and those details are given very graphically in the novella so those with a weak stomach need not apply, but I really left the story feeling as if everyone was a loser. While the detective comes to the end that he deserves for his vile actions, I also that Beth was drawn down to his level as well and became just as morally corrupt as the detective was. In the end, Beth also became a victim of abuse and thus the end of the novella was unsatisfying for me. I think that this is an average novel but was a bit disappointing in the end as I felt it could have been much more powerful.
I would like to thank NetGalley and Samhain Publishing for this review copy. “Apartment 7C” is available now.