July is looking very good with a couple of novellas from DarkFuse that have covers that caught my interest months ago. I decided to kick off the July releases from DarkFuse with “Elderwood Manor” by Christopher Fulbright and Angeline Hawkes. The novellas very creepy cover with a body hanging from a tree and another empty noose beside it grabbed my attention and I could only hope that the story would be as dark and disturbing as the image on the cover.
Bruce Davenport had thought that he had escaped from his past. As a child, he had felt trapped on his family’s estate with its dark past looming around every corner. He left home as soon as he was old enough and started his life anew far away from his childhood home. He now finds himself alone to raise his young son, Cody, when his wife loses her battle with cancer and Bruce is beginning to think that things could not get any worse for him. He quickly learns different when he gets a call from his dying mother asking him to come home.
Bruce finds his worst nightmares realized when he returns only to find his mother already dead and the house inhabited by a mysterious, and possibly malignant, force. He had felt it lingering in the shadows and lurking behind every corner as a child but he had never before faced its full force. Trapped in the house by a snowstorm that has made the road impassable, Bruce can only hope that both he and his son will be able to escape the house not only alive but capable of returning to a normal life.
“Elderwood Manor is a very dark and atmospheric horror novella with strong undertones of H.P. Lovecraft as well. The story almost took me back to the way in which horror was approached a long time ago in that the authors construct the story in a way that allows the reader to scare himself rather than putting the terror in the reader’s face. There is evil here. Everyone knows that it is there. The problem is that no one, either in the story or the reader, seems to know exactly what that evil is. This make it even more frightening and is a subtlety that I often feel is missing from modern horror and which few writers are able to capture effectively. Fulbright and Hawkes prove to be more than capable of doing so in this novella and that makes it very scary.
I really did not know what to expect when I started reading “Elderwood Manor.” I had read some of Hawkes’ short stories before but I only had a very basic idea of her storytelling style and ability. What I found in the novella is a very creepy story that really came through in keeping up with the creepy cover that had caught my attention. “Elderwood Manor” may not be the novella for those who like their horror up front in in their face but it really worked well for me. Fulbright and Hawkes lay on the atmosphere and the presence of horror but let the reader fill in the gaps and scare themselves. When the story reached its end, I was left wondering if there could be, or should be, more to the story and yet I also had a feeling that the story had run its natural course and that the authors had picked the perfect moment to write the final word. Given the history of the characters and the events of the story, it was easy for me to imagine what may come next for Bruce and Cody and the wanderings of my mind are probably more frightening than anything that the authors could have put into the story. If you are a fan of Lovecraftian and atmospheric horror, you will not go wrong with “Elderwood Manor.”
I would like to thank DarkFuse and NetGalley for this advanced review copy. “Elderwood Manor” is scheduled to be released by DarkFuse in July and is available for preorder now.