Is there a Horror Writer better than Lisa Morton working in the small-press today? There may very well be, but there are few whose work I look forward to more. I was absolutely blown away by Monsters of L.A., her collection of thematically linked short stories, and she’s keeping the bar set high with her latest, Hell Manor.

Lisa Morton is known as an expert on the history and practices of Halloween, and she puts that knowledge to wonderful use here, in a truly original Halloween novella set in a Haunted House attraction. The owner, Jack Lichtner, hires an ethereally beautiful young woman named Maeve MacCumhail (Pronounced “McCool”) to do a magic act that will wrap up his latest attraction, Hell Manor. Maeve’s tricks impress even the jaded Jack, and she soon becomes the star of the show, but things take a bad turn on Halloween, as Maeve relates to Jack that she’s worried that her Family may come looking for her that night. They do. And they’re nothing to sneeze at….

To say any more would ruin a wonderfully original premise. I have to admit that I figured out who Maeve was as soon as Morton described her, but I’ve read far too many books and seen far too many movies for my own good. Your mileage may vary. Whether you guess Maeve’s identity or not, this is still a damned fine piece of fiction, and I appreciated the way that the ending tied in to another excellent Lisa Morton story, The Samhanach, in a very subtle way. You certainly don’t need to have read The Samhanach, but if you did, you’ll appreciate the little wink and nod she gives that story at the end of Hell Manor. The small behind-the-scenes glimpses we’re given into the inner workings of a Haunted House attraction are also wonderfully informative, and help immensely in setting the mood. I read this book about a week before Christmas, but for an hour, Lisa Morton made it feel like Halloween all over again.

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