Awhile back, Necro Publications sent me a selection of books for potential review. There were several good books in that package and one shining star by an author I’d never heard of. It took a while for me to get to it and, truth be told, I kind of forgot about it. Then I was reading Brian Keene’s list of favorite reads for 2015 and was reminded of it. Mehitobel Wilson’s LAST NIGHT AT THE BLUE ALICE was number three on that list, a high honor coming from Brian and, as I was to discover for myself, one that was well deserved.
LAST NIGHT AT THE BLUE ALICE is a ghost story of sorts, but also so much more than that. It’s a genre busting literary hybrid of quiet horror and dark fantasy like nothing you’ve ever read, penned by an author at the top of the heap of a new generation of authors constructing the shape of horror. Mollie, the protagonist, is a psychopomp who has been given a series of assignments she must complete in one night, each designed to prevent the potential haunting of The Blue Alice. I’m not going to say much more about the plot than that. Read the synopsis at the end of this review for a full description of the book. Suffice it to say that each scenario Mollie faces would work pretty damn well as a standalone story but works even better as an integral piece in a larger puzzle, all coming together to create an entertaining, engaging and addictive novella. Once I started reading BLUE ALICE the evening was over for me. There was no looking back and no putting the book down until I reached the somewhat hilarious and ultimately satisfying conclusion.
When considering the strengths of LAST NIGHT AT THE BLUE ALICE, the thing or things that make it work, the difficulty came not in finding them, but in choosing which of a plethora of them I should talk about here. Mehitobel Wilson has a whole arsenal of tools at her disposal and she’s not intimidated by them, instead applying them with the deft hand of a true professional. Here you will find stellar character development, perfect pacing, and a sense of setting that draws you into the story and makes you a part of it, unable and unwilling to extricate yourself until the very end. But the thing, the ONE thing that really sings here is Wilson’s storytelling ability. Her voice is natural and enchanting, causing you to lose yourself in the story in such a way as to forget that you’re reading a story and not actually experiencing it.
LAST NIGHT AT THE BLUE ALICE is my first experience of Mehitobel Wilson’s work and I have to say I am truly grateful to Necro/Bedlam for sending it to me. Bel Wilson has created a beautiful and haunting story that will stay with me and that I will return to again, maybe more than once. My reading habits normally tend toward much darker, more brutal fiction than BLUE ALICE but I’d recommend it to any avid fan of horror or, for that matter, any fan of damn good literature in general. If you haven’t read Mehitobel Wilson, it’s time to fix that. Check out LAST NIGHT AT THE BLUE ALICE, then go and find everything else you can by this outstanding author. Since reading BLUE ALICE I’ve read a few of her short stories and discovered that they are of a darker and more horrific nature but are easily as well written and engaging as this outstanding novella.
LAST NIGHT AT THE BLUE ALICE synopsis: Mollie Chandler is on the verge of joining a shadowy Order whose magical operatives, the Glymjacks, manipulate events of the past. As the only candidate for the role of Psychopomp, she must pass one final test before the job is hers. The crumbling Blue Alice has been gathering ghosts for over a hundred years. Once a grand mansion, it was converted to a rooming house in the 1920s. Tenants throughout the century since have suffered violent poltergeist attacks by a vengeful spirit, complained of a spectral woman in black who looms and leers at their every move, reported hearing music when there should be none playing, and appealed to exorcists when tormented by a judgmental demon. Mollie must use magic, ingenuity, and intuition to travel back in time to the source of each haunting, avert their circumstances, and change history. If she succeeds, she will have to give up everything she’s ever known to become a Glymjack. If she fails, Mollie will not survive – if she’s lucky. The alternatives to death are far worse. Mollie has but one night to change the histories of the dead and plot the course for her own future. She is running out of time, and into the haunted heart of the Blue Alice.
About Mehitobel Wilson: Mehitobel Wilson has been publishing horror fiction since 1998. She has been a Bram Stoker Award nominee, and many of her stories have been granted Honorable Mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror series. Recent stories appear in Deep Cuts, Necro Files, Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead, Psychos, and Sins of the Sirens. Selected stories have been collected in Dangerous Red. Her newest book, Last Night at the Blue Alice, is an original novella from Bedlam Press.