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March 6, 2020:
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     Anne  Hogue-Boucher:MERCY HOSPITAL.       

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING

£10.67  pages  363
23 June 2019

  ISBN-13: 978-1653728459         

‘Mercy Hospital’ may have some familiar notes but it is a different tune.  Although the book is structured like a portmanteau novel it manages to be something else.  The individual chapters feel stand-alone but are not quite, and before the end of the book the reader is following and hooked by what he hell is supposed to be happening in the afflicted town of Silver Hollow.   Despite the portmanteau format a singular vision prevails in ‘Mercy Hospital’.  Independent characters exist to illustrate various calamities but all are connected.   Fans of the TV series ‘The Haunting of The Hill House’ will enjoy ‘Mercy Hospital’ but, because it reaches further into the setting around the haunted house, this book is nowhere near as stodgy as a TV show too willing to define its characters by a single experience. 

‘Mercy Hospital’ offers the reader the satisfaction of last man or woman standing horror but the complicated format helps the book avoid the claustrophobic clichés that usually affect such tales.  Without intending to the Silver Hollow residents facilitate the horror in ‘Mercy Hospital’.  Small town boredom pricks curiosity, and it is always the extra look that proves fatal.  At one point someone struggles to explain why they stay in Silver Hollow.  Enough is said to remind the reader of the consequences of apathy and timidity.  

For horror fans there are the usual addictions such as faith healers, haunted houses, psychics, isolated females, local superstitious myths and over-optimistic ghost hunters. There is also added something called metal memory.  And the special dust from Dubbs House is even more lethal than asbestos.  All of this is given a decent and convincing explanation.  It feels strange rather than far-fetched.

‘Mercy Hospital’ has a plot that combines both mystery and horror.   The mystery of what is happening also provides an opportunity for Hogue Boucher to explore in one chapter the attractions of a police procedural.  In this instance we have a gay, unusual, damaged and very interesting policeman.  In ‘Mercy Hospital’ the police, though, move aside to let the real experts take over.  Kit the curious hospital doctor is the ultimate and key investigator in ‘Mercy Hospital’.  The not to be defied Kit is both resolute and sympathetic.  Alienated but loaded with willpower and expertise, Kit has plenty of reader appeal.  Thanks to her presence the deaths of the victims are explored thorough convincing forensic evidence.

‘Mercy Hospital’ is told by alternative narrators that use different techniques.  Kit writes a diary.  A report to a historical society gives a nod to the great Wilkie Collins, and as the story proceeds the descriptive writing is sensibly restrained to let the story and characters take centre stage.   Bold time shifts add to the invention, and the reappearance of the ghost hunters was a pleasant surprise.  As the various stories enable Kit to become immersed in what has happened in Silver Hollow, she dominates the book and reinforces the singular vision that unites all that we have read.  ‘Mercy Hospital’ is a fine horror novel.  

 
By Howard Jackson