Sunday, April 30, 2023

Review: Gallows Hill by Darcy Coates

by Darcy Coates
Release Date: September 6, 2022
2022 Poisoned Pen Press
Kindle Edition; 377 Pages
ISBN: 978-1728220246
Audiobook: B0BHX841CX
Genre: Fiction / Gothic
Source: Review copy from publisher

2 / 5 Stars

The Hull family has owned the Gallows Hill Winery for generations, living and working on the beautiful grounds where they grow their famous grapes. Until the night Mr. and Mrs. Hull settle down for the evening...and are dead by morning.

When their daughter, Margot, inherits the family business, she wants nothing to do with it. The winery is valued for its unparalleled produce, but it's built on a field where hundreds of convicts were once hanged, and the locals whisper morbid rumors. They say the ground is cursed.

It's been more than a decade since Margot last saw her childhood home. But now that she's alone in the sprawling, dilapidated building, she begins to believe the curse is more than real―and that she may be the next victim of the house that never rests...
My Thoughts
Gallows Hill has all the elements that I love in a Gothic novel; a spooky old house, parents who were killed under mysterious circumstances, bells that rings in the night, hallways that meander forever, major historical secrets, a town that looks at the main character suspiciously, things that go bump in the night, and atmosphere galore.  So why did it take so long for me to get through this one? And I had to force myself to read through to the end, wishing I had DNF'd it like I wanted to. 
First of all, the main character, Margot, drove me crazy. I didn't dislike her per se, but she really did some silly things. How is it that you go into a new house like this and not check things out? At least the poor girl could have found a bathroom in the first 48 hours she was there, but instead, the author had her getting lost in the same hallways and being mesmerized by a videotape for hours on end. And although I liked the atmosphere of the house, I really felt like I didn't get to KNOW the house through Margot's eyes as there was so much repetitive stuff going on that I wasn't paying as much attention as I should have.  I liked the bumps in the night and the scary stuff that was happening, but to make a main character sound so ditzy in order to further a plot point bothers me. How many times will the author have Margot forget to charge her phone in order to advance the plot? Have her fall in this hole without her phone to use to contact someone, have her be attacked in this scenario without a charged phone to contact someone, have her get lost here without a charged phone to do anything about it, and so on. See my point? 
While the first three-quarters of the book was repetitious and a bit boring, the ending was actually the best part, but by no means was it great. The author did up the ante on tension and suspense, but by then, I had lost interest and I had to force myself to finish. Furthermore, I felt like the author thought the reader wasn't capable of grasping the fine points of the historical events, and needed to reiterate everything again, something I actually resented. Readers are quite capable of reading between the lines, thank you very much.  I can't say the same for the MC, so maybe the retelling was for her benefit?
Gallows Hill had a lot of great ideas, but the execution left a lot to be desired.  I typically enjoy this author's books, so this was a big disappointment.  Unfortunately, while the author always has a great writing style, this one had very weak characters and character development, and a plot that was slow and pedantic despite the atmospheric horror elements that were included.  This one just didn't work for me and I struggled mightily to finish.