Rolfe Review #1
With thanks to Glenn Rolfe who provided his debut novel and novella in exchange for an honest review of each, this is the first of those reviews. You can find the other here.
For a first time novel, Glenn Rolfe's The Haunted Halls has a great deal going for it. A suitably nasty antagonist, murders and gore by the bucket-load, and a supernatural/possession plot that while not breaking any new ground, does manage to remain interesting throughout.
Effectively telling the story of an angry spirit returning from beyond to lay waste to people in the hotel in which she died, The Haunted Halls first third waxes back and forth between the present day haunting (and growing number of murders) and the back story detailing how said spirit came to be, well, dead in the first place. Once those details are established, Rolfe opens the door on a considerable amount of carnage as this spirit flexes her impressive powers that consistent of, but are not limited to, manipulation of objects, being able to manifest herself physically, projecting herself miles away when required, and possession of not one but several characters at a time. Up against this demon are two hotel employees and a (mostly) fraudulent urban shaman who is more interested in making a quick buck than helping people out of their spiritual jams. Rape, mutilation and murder ensue.
The Haunted Halls moves at breakneck speed. Rolfe utilises short chapters and multiple POVs to steam through his story. This sounds good in theory, but in reality turns out to the main debut novel pitfall that this one falls into. Perhaps I can best explain by likening reading The Haunted Halls to at times being like a night I had in Hamburg some six years ago. Travelling with a group of male friends, we went out to an infamous night spot known as the Reeperbahn. After making good use of my scratchy German to fend off the very friendly working girls, my friends and I chose a nightclub playing some decent music. By the time we'd grabbed some drinks and found somewhere to stand, the DJ had been through two more songs - not because the crowd at the bar was six people deep, but because he would allow each song to build to its crescendo or chorus and then abruptly cut to the next tune. We lasted long enough to finish that one drink before moving on to the next place because we all got sick of him skipping to something new just as we were getting into what we were listening to.
And so it was with The Haunted Halls. Just as you're enjoying the scene Rolfe has set, he whisks you away to other events, and then returns you several pages later to resume the scene. This practice frequently kills any building tension, and once there are five or six POVs occurring, adds to the occasional sense of confusion.
A further aspect that I found hard to palate was the lack of any realistic consequence for everything that was taking place in the hotel. Supernatural cone of silences aside, I kept wondering how any of the other guests in the hotel could fail to hear bodies being thrown through windows or mass slaughters taking place in the room next door. Not one police officer makes an appearance in this tale until all is said and done, almost as if the events that took place were occurring in some other kind of non-law-enforcement-ality. It was also never really explained why this particular spirit became all powerful ...
So, in the end, The Haunted Halls is an encouraging debut from a new author still honing his craft. There are some great moments of carnage and an interesting through-plot, but the noted issues I had with it prevented it from being great.
3 Levelling Up Spirits for The Haunted Halls.