Mysteries of Lost Angel Inn
The Lost Angel Inn is an appropriate setting for a trio of gothic tales. It’s too bad that the stories that take place there aren’t more interesting.
One hundred and forty years ago, a young maid was accused of murdering the owner of the Lost Angel Inn, which was then a private residence. As she stood at the gallows about to be hanged for the crime, she vowed that there would be never be any happiness beneath the house’s roof. Ever since, someone has died violently at the inn every twenty years, the maid’s age when she was put to death. It’s been twenty years since the last murder, and Olivia Hamilton is about to reopen the inn for business. I’m not sure why she couldn’t wait a year to avoid tempting fate, but heroines in romance novels are seldom blessed with common sense.
A Face in the Window
- by Evelyn Rogers
Grade : C- Sensuality : N/A
In Evelyn Rogers's A Face in the Window, Ellie Gresham arrives at the inn for its opening weekend. She was invited by an old boyfriend, and even though she's not really interested in the college dean and hasn't seen him for more than a year, she needs a vacation, so why not? Her first night there, she hears the inn's resident ghost sobbing. When she gets up and looks out her window, she sees a man in the room across the way strangling a woman to death. But when she and Olivia investigate, they find the room undisturbed and no sign of a body. Then a new guest arrives at the inn, one very familiar to Olivia. Jeff Cunningham is the man she saw commit murder the night before.
The writing is competent and the story delivers some good atmosphere early on as Ellie arrives, effectively setting the mood for the anthology. Mostly though, nothing about this tale rings true. Ellie is a web designer, a strangely modern career choice for a woman who doesn't seem modern in any other way. The dialogue is stilted, the characters are wooden, and their actions are often contrived and far-fetched. Most of all, the mystery couldn't be more obvious. The story is readable enough, but little of it is believable.
The Edge of Memory
- by Kathleen O'Brien
Grade : C+ Sensuality : N/A
The Edge of Memory is the best of the three stories. Emily Carlyle's mother was the last murder victim at the inn twenty years ago. Now that it has reopened, Emily comes back to the inn to search for the answer to her mother's death. Once there, she meets Christopher Maxwell, who is working on the renovations. He also happens to be the son of the man everyone believed murdered her mother.
Kathleen O'Brien's tale is well-written, with a strong sense of mood. Emily and Christopher are both likable people, reasonably developed within the constraints of a short tale. The story isn't all that long, so there isn't much room to tell a convincing love story, but they have decent enough chemistry. This story also delves into some of the secrets of the inn itself. Unfortunately, the killer's identity is once again obvious from the start, so there's very little mystery to the proceedings.
Shadows of the Past
- by Debra Webb
Grade : C- Sensuality : N/A
The anthology wraps up with Debra Webb's Shadows of the Past. Olivia Hamilton opened the Lost Angel Inn as a way of escaping her past as a battered wife. Now strange things are happening there, things that make her wonder if her dead husband is back. Deputy Police Chief Chase Fraley vows to be there for her. Can he figure out what's happening to her?
The story gets off to a slow start. The first ten pages are all exposition that seems to go on forever. Even once things begin to happen, the pace doesn't pick up much. And the characters are barely developed. This is a gaslighting story, and there are some appropriately chilling moments here. But yet again, the villain's identity is beyond obvious from the very first page.