Jealousy, betrayal, murder and a hunger for vengeance that spans the centuries…
History student Alex Palmer is thrilled when his girlfriend, Claire Ryan, buys an apartment in Belle Vue Manor, formerly a Victorian lunatic asylum.
But as Alex begins to discover the dark truth about the asylum’s past, he, Claire, and their friend Marianne find themselves on a nightmarish journey. Each will face the deadly consequences of the evil that began with the construction of the first Belle Vue Manor by an aristocratic French émigré in 1789, as well as the cruelty and satanic practices that continued when it became an asylum for the insane.
As the two strands—past and present—unfold, Alex uncovers a supernatural mystery where revenge is paramount and innocence irrelevant—without being aware of the price he, and those around him, will pay.
Title: Belle Vue | Author: C.S. Alleyne | Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing | Pub. Date: August 25th, 2020 | Pages: 350 | ISBN13: 9781646693115 | Genre: Horror | Language: English | Source: Received from publisher for review consideration | Unstarred Review
Belle Vue Review
I was very excited to read Belle Vue because I love stories set in abandoned asylums and hospitals. And the Belle Vue synopsis had almost everything I could want in a horror novel. And I am willing to be a bit more lenient as it’s a debut novel. But…I didn’t like it.
First, the good. I liked the character of Marianne. She was one of the few characters that I did like. I also liked parts of the flashback chapters. The dialogue in those chapters was also good. It didn’t sound too modern in speech or thoughts and I appreciated the attention to detail with that. The formatting was good and I didn’t notice any typos at all.
While Belle Vue isn’t terrible its greatest flaw is pacing. There are large chunks of the book where nothing happens. Belle Vue breaks one of the important rules of writing, “Show, don’t tell”. So much is skimmed over and not gone into detail that it’s almost impossible to be scared or even mildly creeped out.
The pacing is very clunky. Large chunks of time go by with no indication of time passing. Things happen but they’re not gone into. I generally don’t mind point of view hopping but with the weird time jumps it makes the flow jerky. And it doesn’t seem to matter since we never get anything more than surface-level reactions to events. It also had the added effect of making it hard to tell who the main character was. I really only knew from the synopsis that Alex was supposed to be. In the beginning, and throughout much of the novel, we are in Claire’s head far more than we’re in anyone else’s. But, again, there’s no depth to it to make it worth seeing another point of view. Even when we’re seeing the haunting through Claire’s eyes we rarely get any kind of emotional connection to what’s going on. Which brings me to the biggest flaw…
The characters are awful. The only two I marginally liked were Marianne (whom Alex and his friends constantly mock) and an older couple, neighbors of Claire’s (whom Alex also makes fun of). I honestly had a hard time gauging what age they were supposed to be. Sometimes they seem like early twenty-somethings in college but at other times they seem to be immature thirty-year-olds. And they’re bland. My gods they’re bland.
And when they’re not bland they’re not likable in the slightest. Alex does little but drink, get high, lust after his girlfriend (more on that later), make fun of people, or laugh at his friend’s asinine jokes. I’ll give you an example. Don’t worry, it’s not spoilery but perfectly illustrates my point. He leaves his girlfriend, who has absolutely no one but he and Marianne, for two weeks on Christmas to go hang out with his friends at a “big boys bash”. He doesn’t discuss it with her, doesn’t even bring it up until she talks about making a Christmas tradition with the two of them. And, instead of being concerned with her declining health, he gets pissy because she wants to sleep and study for a weekend instead of going to Pound Town. So. Safe to say that I did not like Alex.
Claire wasn’t much more likable. She is an absolute doormat with hardly any agency. Things are happening and she does nothing to find out what’s going on with either her health or what’s happening in her building. And…really there’s not much more to her. The book constantly tells us things about her but they feel very disconnected from her so it doesn’t really feel like we’re getting attached to her.
The side characters were…there. They were little more than caricatures. Eric and his wife are the stodgy, professor-type characters, Gary is a frat bro. And don’t even get me started on the American, Sally. From Texas. Marianne had a bit more personality than the others but even she was a generic, mother hen type.
For a debut it’s ok and I feel like the author does have some potential. Tighter editing alone would have made it much less tedious to get through. A few scenes here and there were slightly effective and had a spark to them. The chapters centered on the history of what happened at Belle Vue were interesting and I enjoyed reading them.
Other people might like it better than I did so I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading it and seeing for themselves whether they would like it or not.
You can find Belle Vue via its Goodreads link or, if you’d like to help support literacy programs, at Better World Books
GracieKat was the first co-host of Sci-Fi & Scary, Lilyn’s partner-in-crime, and sub-head of the Kali Krew. She reviews horror books, movies, and games for the site. She also does a weekly Focus on the Frightful feature, and is the site list-maker. She is also in control of the Sci-Fi & Scary podcast which will relaunch soon.