It wasn’t entirely by chance that I discovered and read Lisa Mannetti’s DEATHWATCH. I wanted to feature more women in horror on the blog so I reached out to several different publishers and authors, asking after review copies of books written by women. Robert S. Wilson, over at Nightscape Press, was the first one to respond to me, and one of the three books he sent me–per my request–was DEATHWATCH. I haven’t read a lot of historical horror fiction. Not because of any bias or lack of interest in the sub-genre so much as a lack of opportunity. I haven’t had a hell of a lot of it come across my desk, and honestly, none so good as Lisa Mannetti’s outstanding and chilling novella collection, DEATHWATCH.
DEATHWATCH, the explosive novella collection from Bram Stoker Award-Winning Author Lisa Mannetti. In Dissolution, Stuart Granville is a would-be medical student from the South who’s been expelled for drinking and believes he’s heading north to Hyde Park, New York to tutor twin girls. Instead, he discovers that his charges, Abby and Eleanor, have never been to school of any kind. They are also Siamese twins and their father, a doctor with grandiose dreams, means to separate them surgically. He intends to take advantage of Stuart’s expertise and vulnerability; but unbeknownst to both men, the supernatural force in the house has an agenda–and a will–of its own. In The Sheila Na Gig, Tom Smith is on a ship in steerage and bound for New York from his native Ireland after facing down the constraints imposed by his family, overcoming the loss of his first love, circumventing his grandmother’s wiles and occult knowledge, and trying to save his younger, mentally challenged sister, Delia, from both witchcraft and sexual abuse. In a genre glutted with soulless practitioners, grinding out “product” like sausages, Lisa Mannetti’s continues to be a refreshingly personal voice. Her work is idiosyncratic, erudite, intense … and authentically nightmarish. ~ Robert Dunbar, author of MARTYRS & MONSTERS and WILLY
Every now and then I’ll read a book that is so freaky good I’m almost too intimidated to review it. Lisa Mannetti’s DEATHWATCH is a prime example of this. It’s so well written I find myself wondering what I might have to say that will do it the justice it deserves. I started reading it at 1:00 AM on a sleepless night and didn’t end up sleeping–or doing anything else–for the rest of the night. From the first word of the Bram Stoker Nominated novella “Dissolution” to the last word of the Author’s Note at the end of the book, I was mesmerized by Mannetti’s lyrical prose and hopelessly glued to the pages.
I’ve read in other reviews that “Dissolution” was the standout novella, or, conversely, it was “The Sheila Na Gig” that was the better story. I can’t agree with either position. The two companion novellas complement and enhance each other beautifully and, while either work can stand on it’s own merit, they each benefit from the inclusion of the other, a fact that isn’t readily apparent until the surprising connection is made at the end of “The Sheila Na Gig.” That said, I’m not going to spend a lot of time rewriting the synopsis. Instead, I’m going to talk about the things that make DEATHWATCH, and Mannetti herself, special.
In her author’s note, Lisa says she’s “in love with voice and character”, a fact that is immediately obvious in the first few paragraphs of “Dissolution”. She has a passion for the art of story that shines through in her work. Her voice is captivating, her language musical, and her characters fully realized and easy to empathize with. And her villains are delightfully terrifying. In “Dissolution” there’s Regina, a sadistic, vengeful ghost who delights in the fear and anguish she visits upon her victims, even her own daughters. On the other hand, in “Sheila Na Gig”, Rose is a very human, hideously cruel witch who controls and torments her family through the use of her witchcraft and an evil artifact known as the Sheila Na Gig.
I had not previously read Mannetti’s work but, after reading DEATHWATCH, it’s easy to see why she’s won the Bram Stoker award for her novel THE GENTLING BOX, and has received multiple nominations for her other work, including “Dissolution”, which is currently in development for film by director Paul Leyden. Both of the novellas in DEATHWATCH are intelligent, sensual, and genuinely horrifying stories that left me yearning for more. Much more. Lisa Mannetti is a master wordsmith and now one of my favorite authors. I will be reading and reviewing her newest novella, THE BOX JUMPER, in the next few weeks and will read everything she publishes in the future. If you haven’t read Lisa’s work yet, go get DEATHWATCH and discover what you’re missing.
About Lisa Mannetti:
Lisa Mannetti’s debut novel, The Gentling Box, garnered a Bram Stoker Award and she has since been nominated three times for the prestigious award in both the short and long fiction categories: Her story, “Everybody Wins,” was made into a short film and her novella, “Dissolution,” will soon be a feature-length film directed by Paul Leyden. Recent short stories include, “Resurgam” in Zombies: More Recent Dead edited by Paula Guran, and “Almost Everybody Wins,” in Insidious Assassins. Her work, including The Gentling Box, and “1925: A Fall River Halloween” has been translated into Italian.
In addition to The Box Jumper, she has also authored The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, a macabre gag book, 51 Fiendish Ways to Leave your Lover, as well as non-fiction books, and numerous articles and short stories in newspapers, magazines and anthologies. Recent and forthcoming works include additional short stories, and a novel about the dial-painter tragedy in the post-WWI era, Radium Girl.
Lisa lives in New York in the 100 year old house she originally grew up in with two wily (mostly) black twin cats named Harry and Theo Houdini.
You can learn more about Lisa Mannetti and her work at http://lisamannetti.blogspot.com/ and on her Amazon Author Page. You can also find her on social media at http://twitter.com/LisaMannetti, http://www.facebook.com/LisaMannetti.Writer, and https://www.pinterest.com/lisamannettiaut/