Title: Belle Vue
Author: C.S. Alleyne
Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing
Publication Date: Aug 25, 2020
Shelves: Female-author, female-fronted
Jealousy, betrayal, and murder, all set in a former Victorian lunatic asylum, complete with a century-old mystery of the infamous Hellfire Club. What more could you ask for from Belle Vue you might ask? Well, how about a few twists you won’t see coming, embedded in parallel storylines that are each worthy of a novel on their own.
C.S. Alleyne already impressed me with Power earlier this year, so I was eager to see what she might do with a longer-form story and I’m happy to say she did not disappoint. This is a big book that takes a while to really get its hooks into you, but once it does, there’s nothing you can do to shake it loose. For me, that point of no return was chapter twelve, where we finally bear witness to the brutal, sexually-charged murder that set so many events in motion. It’s shocking in how it happens, but even more shocking in its aftermath. Where the book then achieved can’t-put-down status for me, demanding that I finish it, no matter how late it might be getting, was chapter twenty-three where . . . well, it’s major spoiler territory, so I must watch what I say, but everything changes.
There are four things that made this memorable for me, the first of which I’ve already touched on – the narrative. In alternating chapters between two eras, over 140 years removed from one another, yet in the exact same location, we really get a sense of history that pulls everything together. Two, the setting of Belle Vue Lunatic Asylum/Manor Estate is just about everything I look for in a creepy horror novel, with a haunted atmosphere that endures through time and renovations. Three, the characters are . . . well, not necessarily likable or endearing, but well-rounded and with genuine depth, which makes their fates feel significant, especially as lives and personalities change in the second half. Lastly, the supernatural elements here, so much of which are teased and hinted at before we get the ‘big’ moments are absolutely fantastic – everything from eerie to terrifying.
Make no mistake, Belle Vue is dark and violent, full of rape, murder, torture, and abuse, and its depiction of the Victorian age is sadly all-too-authentic in its close-minded morals and attitudes. Women do not fare well in that world, and it’s safe to say they don’t fare any better under its lingering shadow. Far from a comfortable read, this is a book that will keep you up late, no matter how dangerous it may be to do so.
Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀
My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.