Review: 'The Haunting of Lake Manor Hotel' edited by Nathan Hystad and Samanda R. Primeau

lakemanorThe Haunting of Lake Manor Hotel edited by Nathan Hystad and Samanda R. Primeau
WoodBridge Press (April 2016)
202 pages; $13.99 paperback; $0.99 e-book
Reviewed by Josh Black

It’s been over a hundred and fifty years since a plague ravaged the area around Lake Manor. With few left to bury them, the corpses were unceremoniously dumped into the lake by their surviving loved ones.

Years later, Lake Manor Hotel is alive with the shadows of the dead. Within the hotel’s 13 rooms, there are 13 tales to tell. Guests will face evil demons, ghosts, creatures from the lake, and the worst monsters of all: the ones within themselves.

13 will check in, but how many will check out?

The Haunting of Lake Manor Hotel is an ambitious book. Reminiscent of the “HWA Presents” paperbacks of the ’80s and ’90s (Freak Show, Deathsport, et. al.), it’s a shared world anthology featuring a variety of talent both established and burgeoning. Some details carry across multiple stories, and the hotel staff remains the same, but other than that, the authors all have their own stories to tell.

Laura Bifano’s inspired cover art sets the tone nicely. Quiet horror is the order of the day here, ghosts being the most prominent (dis?)embodiment of this. Whether it’s ghosts of the literal variety or things from the characters’ pasts surfacing and haunting them, it’s consistent throughout the book. Place all of this otherworldly torment in a satisfyingly dreary setting with a dark history of its own, and you’ve got a book well-suited for reading under a blanket on a stormy night. The uniformity of atmosphere and the recurring characters and locales make it work just as well in short bursts or longer reading sessions. Despite some stories that end before they get going and the occasional bit of unfortunate prose or forced exposition, it’s a solid read overall. Nothing here is particularly original. It’s just good, shivery comfort reading for fans of classic horror.

Highlights include:

Anna Dickinson’s “The Boy by the Lake,” in which a disaffected teen makes a new friend at a lake full of skeletons. This plaintive, ghostly tale brings Lake Manor into Twilight Zone territory.

Thaddeus White’s “Forget Me Not” continues in a deceptively similar vein but goes in a different direction. A woman cuts herself on a statuette she comes across in the forest, crosses paths with a strange old woman, and gets a vacation in a place much different than she’d anticipated.

In Scarlett R. Algee’s “The Lure of Light,” a woman seeks space and peace of mind in the hotel after her five-year-old daughter dies in a car accident. It turns out grief isn’t so easy to get away from, and neither are the increasingly bizarre occurrences that befall her almost as soon as she checks in.

Joleen Kuyper brings us a tale of the vulnerability—and potential danger—of grief in “Verity’s Weekend.” A woman checks in to Room 5 for the fourth time in two months, having formed a bond with the ghost of a young boy after the death of her own son. But something between them isn’t quite as it seems.

Christopher Bean adds a morbid flare to the lakeside with “Jumbled-up Jack,” a twisted tale of dark voices, family secrets, and body parts used for bait and something more.

Some wonderfully creepy imagery marks Gwendolyn Kiste’s “Horseshoe,” a story in which an heiress and prominent horse jockey is sequestered at the Lake Manor after a tragic riding accident. Guilt and pain fuel her descent into full-blown paranoia as old familiar demons catch up with her.

In D.J. Tyrer’s “A Key to Kill For,” a pair of seekers after an embezzled fortune find instead a darkness that’s all too accommodating.

Samanda R. Primeau’s “Blood is Thicker” explores a running subplot involving some of the Lake Manor staff. It makes for an ultimately satisfying conclusion to the anthology and an entertaining story in its own right.

If you’re craving a good old-fashioned supernatural tale, Woodbridge Press has you covered with The Haunting of Lake Manor Hotel. Here’s hoping it’s the first of many such anthologies.

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