When I contacted Robert S. Wilson at Nightscape Press looking for review copies, I requested two titles specifically. One of them was DEATHWATCH by Lisa Mannetti (my review for that is here), and the other was THE EVOLUTIONIST by Rena Mason. I also asked him to send me anything new he had coming down the pike. The result of that query was Amelia Mangan’s debut entry, RELEASE.
Prior to RELEASE, I had never heard of Amelia Mangan, nor did I know anything very specific about this book, so I had no idea what I was getting into. Just that it was an interesting premise written by a new author. That’s a combo that hooks me every time. I love delving into the unknown and the unexpected, and what I discovered with RELEASE was unexpectedly delightful.
For a first novel, RELEASE surprised the hell out of me. It’s one of the more accomplished debut efforts I’ve seen in a long time. Mangan displays a mastery of descriptive imagery and a flare for character driven story that is unusual in a new author and something that, in this reviewer’s opinion, is crucial to a good story.
In RELEASE, Stanley Fitzgerald has recently been released from the mental hospital where he has been incarcerated for the last ten years. Against his doctor’s advice, he returns to the home of his childhood and, with the help of a distant cousin, attempts to put his life back together. But Marina, the murderous sociopath he met and befriended in the asylum, has other plans in store. One rainy night she shows up on Stanley’s doorstep, barefoot and drenched to the bone. Uninvited, she moves in and quickly takes over Stanley’s life. From this point on things get crazy and Stanley is plunged into a nightmare of manipulation, psychological torture, and despair.
With deft, lyrical prose, Amelia Mangan paints her story on the page with vivid detail, well written, flowing dialog, and outstanding character development. RELEASE is a fast moving, engrossing, and ultimately heartrending tragedy that moves along at a natural, well-managed pace. The characters are damn near perfect and Mangan’s grasp of language is top-notch, making for an epic, beautifully twisted Gothic fairy tale. If I were to recommend only one debut novel for 2015, RELEASE would be it, hands down.
Publisher: Nightscape Press
Release synopsis from Amazon:
At the age of sixteen, Stanley Fitzgerald murdered his mother. He hasn’t uttered a word since. Institutionalized for the last twelve years, he spends his days numb and unresponsive, shut away in a dismal, silent world of his own.
Until he meets Marina.
Large bright feline eyes. Long chestnut hair. Rough edges of bitten fingernails. Hands that once murdered an entire family. Marina talks to Stanley. And before long, Stanley talks back.
As their friendship grows, Marina’s influence draws Stanley out of his shell. The doctors, pleased with Stanley’s progress, decide it’s time for his release.
Returning to the isolated Midwestern farmhouse where he grew up, Stanley is determined to start putting the pieces of his broken life back together. He never believes he will see Marina again. Not as long as he lives.
Until, one black and rainy night, Marina appears on Stanley’s doorstep.
“They let me out,” she tells him.
Stanley wants so badly to believe her.
Stanley has no choice but to let her in…
RELEASE is a Gothic fairy tale of love, death, guilt, and madness.
And it will never let you go.
About Amelia Mangan: Amelia Mangan is a writer originally from London, currently living in Sydney, Australia. Her writing is featured in many anthologies, including Attic Toys (ed. Jeremy C. Shipp); Blood Type (ed. Robert S. Wilson); Worms, After The Fall, X7 and No Monsters Allowed (ed. Alex Davis); The Bestiarum Vocabulum (ed. Dean M. Drinkel); Carnival of the Damned (ed. Henry Snider); and Mother Goose is Dead (eds. Michele Acker & Kirk Dougal). Her short story, “Blue Highway,” won Yen Magazine’s first annual short story competition and was featured in its 65th issue. She can be found on Twitter (@AmeliaMangan) and Facebook (facebook.com/amelia.mangan).