I’m a big fan of atmospheric horror. And nothing screams atmosphere quite like a haunted asylum. Based on the very real abuses of the British asylum system in the 19th century, Belle Vue explores what happens when the horrors of the past reach into the present.
Belle Vue is a horror novel by C.S. Alleyne, published by Crystal Lake Publishing.
Claire thinks that she’d found the deal of a lifetime. Finally, she can own her own place, a flat in the beautifully renovated Belle Vue Mansion. So, what if it is reportedly haunted? No ghost is going to scare her off from her dream home.
But the grisly history of Belle Vue is more than just a ghost story and it certainly hasn’t been left in the past. The gruesome fate of Ellen Grady and her sister Mary in 1869 created ripples that affect the tenants of Belle Vue even now.
Belle Vue tells a twisted tale of madness, murder, Satanists, and sex cults.
Alleyne cleverly weaves the past and present together, telling twin stories while never giving too much away. Parallels between the stories are artful without being predictable. Crucial information is revealed at just the right times. Alleyne is a master of twists, reserving them until they are most unexpected. No character is safe in this story.
Belle Vue stars a cast of characters, rather than having one protagonist. These interactions fuel the intrigue and suspense of the novel. Above all, what Alleyne does well is to create characters that are flawed, but compelling.
Claire’s enthusiasm and lust for life immediately drew me to her. Watching the events of the book unfold (and anticipating what was to come) filled me with dread. The tragedy that surrounds Claire throughout Belle Vue is only made worse with the knowledge of how her circumstances reflect those of the past.
Alex, Claire’s boyfriend, makes for an interesting character study. He’s selfish, self-absorbed, and misogynistic, though he does seem to care for Claire. He is far from perfect and, in fact, his flaws are what stand out about him as a character. The tragedy of Belle Vue affects him profoundly. More than any other, he displays the most growth throughout the plot.
Poor, sweet Ellen doesn’t deserve all that happens to her at Belle Vue. Imprisoned there by her sister in the 1860’s, Ellen suffers horribly at the hands of the staff. Her loving and hopeful nature persists and her spirit haunts Belle Vue in a subtle way from then on.
Sinister in the extreme, Mary makes for an unconscionable antagonist. Mary pulls the strings for the events at Belle Vue, from the 1860’s through the present day. Though she considers herself the product of misuse, her selfishness and greed are the real cause of her suffering. Though her cunning elevates her to supernatural heights, it also damns her.
Belle Vue is itself a character in this story. The stately mansion holds centuries worth of secrets and Alleyne enjoys teasing them out throughout the story. From the manor home of hedonistic sadists, to a horrific asylum, to a renovated apartment complex, the Belle Vue has worn many faces, and hidden the dark truth in the tunnels below.
Belle Vue was a delight to read, especially if you enjoy historical horror. Anyone who likes asylum horror should pick this up.