Creepy and riveting at the same time, Tranquil Heights is a little gem waiting to be discover
Katie Edgecomb is questioning everything she thought she knew.
She thought the family curse was fake, just a scary story her mom told her to keep her from misbehaving. The first-born daughters in each of the last three generations lost their lives on their twenty-fifth birthdays, a series of tragic accidents sending shock waves of grief through multiple generations. It isn’t until Katie is faced with the real-time impacts of the curse that she starts to believe it may be more than a story and she sets out to discover the origins of the family’s fabled curse. Her only clue lies in an exclusive girls’ preparatory academy in Washington that was once an asylum. There, she must face heart-break, ugly truths, and events so terrifying that they threaten to sever her very ties to reality.
She has no choice.
Katie is pregnant, and she won’t let her child become another life claimed by the curse.
Sometimes a good horror is just what the doctor ordered, you know? I don’t read it that often anymore—blame the horror overdose back in my heydays—but when I do, it’s like tasting seasoned, uh, tea.
…Tea is superior to any other kind of beverage, shut up.
Anyway, Tranquil Heights is the quintessence of a scary story: a curse that dates back generations; ghosts; a former asylum; a protagonist who wants to break said curse and save her unborn daughter. Katie is assisted in her quest by a generous dose of luck, a detail that wouldn’t be believable if the story was longer. As it is, it makes for an entertaining read, one I enjoyed a lot.
The plot itself is well-crafted, relying on tropes but giving them a unique spin. The asylum, which is now a private school, has been a lavish place when the events that led to Katie’s family being cursed unfolded, and there was no Nurse Ratched in sight. All the parties involved thought they were doing the right thing – hell, good intentions, and all that.
Speece goes for a double timeline in Tranquil Heights, following both Katie and Wilhelmina. It’s quite a feat to write about different timelines and tie them together so that they’d blend without a bump, coalescing in a single story. Well done. The cast of supporting characters is small—good!—and they all have clear, distinct voices. I prefer the 1935 one, because Beatrice, Alice, and Natalie stand out more than Katie’s family or Darla, but it’s a personal preference and nothing else.
Style-wise, Tranquil Heights is fast-paced and action-packed, while the story flows without a hitch. The editors who worked on it did a great job too: spotless grammar and an on-point plot, something that fills me with joy.
Last but not least, the cover. I’m not that taken by the color palette, but it’s a fitting one.