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Jealousy, betrayal, murder and a hunger for vengeance that spans the centuries...
History student Alex Palmer is thrilled when his girlfriend, Claire Ryan, buys an apartment in Belle Vue Manor, formerly a Victorian lunatic asylum.But as Alex begins to discover the dark truth about the asylum’s past, he, Claire, and their friend Marianne find themselves on a nightmarish journey. Each will face the deadly consequences of the evil that began with the construction of the first Belle Vue Manor by an aristocratic French émigré in 1789, as well as the cruelty and satanic practices that continued when it became an asylum for the insane. As the two strands—past and present—unfold, Alex uncovers a supernatural mystery where revenge is paramount and innocence irrelevant—without being aware of the price he, and those around him, will pay.
Mental asylums were very popular in England and the United States of America in the 1800s and early 19o0s. I live in Oregon which has the Fairview Training Center that has a really dark past. In 2000, those in charge of Fairview made a decision to close down. Since then part of the property is now a sustainable housing development. Demolition of the remaining cottages took place in 2016. They have put up fencing to keep people from walking in and taking pictures. What is interesting is that after closing Fairview in 2000, another asylum continued to operate. Pendleton Oregon’s “Eastern Oregon Training Center” would continue until 2009.
There are many movies and TV shows that speak to what happened in asylums. Most speak to what the patients experience, but some look at the workers as well. This book takes it a bit further. The book starts with a flashback. An orderly at the asylum takes a young woman who is ill from her room. It set the book up really well in the sense that you understand it is going to be dark. I was not completely ready for the level of depravity this book has. It wasn’t to the point of making me ill or anything. It was just initially surprising.
So after the initial flash back the book is really two stories. One spotlighting the past focusing on a woman and her half sister. There are other characters that come in and out. The bulk of the plot however is on those two. The other half of the book is based in the present. A woman, her best friend, and her boyfriend are the main characters for this half. Like with the past other characters come in and out, but they are the main focus.
The past deals with the asylum while it was running, and actually even before it was an asylum. The small comments and hints of what happens in the asylum show that the author spent time researching. Specifically what exactly happens at English asylums during this time. Yes, watching movies and such will give you a good idea about what happens. Doing research into it will provide that edge that I feel this book has.
The present deals with after the asylum has been empty for years. A developer has bought the property and decides to create apartments. All she wants is a new start after her parent’s death. Graduate school is hard; between the classes, proving your thesis, and the research. These are stressors that can be a hindrance to a social life. Her best friend hates the asylum but is supporting her the only way she knows how. Initially, her boyfriend had plans to work on another project. After seeing the asylum, however, he decides that the asylum is perfect for his thesis. That is when all the things go wrong, or at least start to go wrong.
As the stories unfold, the reader can see how they intertwine. However, even someone who reads a lot of books similar to this will not be ready for how they intertwine. As I think this is the most surprising part of the story. I feel it will also be a spoiler if I give it away. I can tell you that this dives into more than what happens at an asylum. It also looks at the darker side of secret organizations. That is one of my favorite parts of the story actually. Not because of what transpires there, but the fact that it is interwoven into the basic fabric of the story. Without the outlying parts, the entire story would actually fall apart in my opinion.
Mental health in the United States is often overlooked or stigmatized to the point where people don’t seek out the assistance they need. We have a much better understanding of how the brain works than doctors in the 1800s. However, that hasn’t stopped people from thinking those with mental or emotional health issues shouldn’t be locked away. One of the reasons why the Eastern Oregon Training center was still open in 2009 was a product of this. Yes, there is a need for a facility that can help those who have such severe mental health needs that medication alone can not cure them. But those patients deserve the same level of respect that all people do.
Reading about what happened in an aslyum in the 1800s in England shows how far we have come. It also shows how far we still need to go. While we do not send people who have seizures to mental hospitals anymore, do we send people who we don’t know what is wrong with them? “Oh they have something wrong, let’s just institutionalize them.” Then you have the people who think that those who are mentally insane for purposes of criminal activities are ‘just faking it’, it makes it very difficult to really seek the help one needs.
Overall this is a very good story, albeit dark look at what happens when those in power look the other way. Or are looking the right way for the wrong reasons.