Charlotte Briggs is a paramedic in need of help at the beginning of Autumn Falls. She and her son Kevin have been moving from hotel to hotel across Seattle, fleeing from her ex Brett. When the Autumn Falls Maine hospital contacts her out of the blue. They offer her a new job and a stipend to help her move cross country. Charlotte ignores some ominous signs—they found her on her non-existent LinkedIn; Charlotte’s mother has warned her to never return to Maine—and heads to the island. She is plunged into a world of mystery, chock-full of ghosts, and a series of brutal accidents.
The premise of Autumn Falls—which author A.R. Kingston says came as “a vivid nightmare”—is the best part of the novel. However, unfortunately, the execution does not rise to that level.
The biggest issue is that the details Kingston layers into her description do not affect the world around them. For example, there is a massive storm in the novel. During the said storm, characters dig up a lost diary and read it. They do all of this without once seeking shelter, meaning readers are meant to believe that Charlotte stood in the rain while this storm raged and the handwritten diary was still legible.
That same lack of impression extends to ghosts, which play a prominent role in the novel. Charlotte’s paramedic partner Chuck sees a ghost ambulance early on and seems nonplussed by it. He professes to see others after. Despite all of that, when he sees a ghost near the end of the novel, he reacts like this:
“‘Her ghost,’ he came over and put his hand around her, ‘How can that be?’”
These kinds of inconsistencies make it hard to root for the characters, which in turn reduces the tension that should make readers want to race for the ending.
The dialogue reduces the tension further with the characters frequently over-explaining things with lines like:
‘You’re right. Most hospitals smell like bleach and antiseptic, but this one smelled…damp and mildewy.’
‘Right… I also noted the sour metallic scent of blood floating in the air. I suppose it’s not all that uncommon, but I’ve never gotten a whiff so strong before. Moreover, it was as cold as the tundra in there, or a tomb.”
The characters in this scene, Charlotte and Chuck, respectively, leave nothing for readers to interpret. Just dropping the detail to one that the hospital smelled “mildewy” and to the other, it had “the sour metallic scent of blood floating in the air” would do much more to establish a creepy atmosphere.
The other odd thing about Autumn Falls was that each chapter started with a quote. Epigraphs are not uncommon, but these quotes often did not inform how readers interpret the chapters they preceded. An epigraph needs to be in conversation with the work to be successful.
The premise for Autumn Falls is good, but the execution is not.
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|Pub Date: May 14, 2021||Page Count: 361pp||Age Range: 16 & Over|
|ISBN: 978-1-7342-4000-9||Publisher: Keen Quill Press||List Price: $12.99|