Written by: Drake Morgan
Sandy DeLuca’s novella Messages from the Dead is literally about messages from the dead. Our protagonist Donna has been rather strange to say the least. Her grandmother was a medium and held séances to commune with the dead. In an attempt to escape her bizarre upbringing, she marries, had children, and tries to assimilate into “normal” society. The dead however, will not stay quiet. Her university was once the site of a children’s hospital and voices from the grave demand Donna’s attention for their own end.
DeLuca’s writing is crisp and her descriptions are vivid. She draws the reader in with well-executed details. Chapter ten for example, opens with a conversation between Donna and Alex. As Donna describes the horrific deaths in the long-vanished hospital, a feeling of dread and fear rests just below the surface of her prose. DeLuca doesn’t bludgeon the reader with the obvious, but instead allows the characters to explore, uncover, and reveal the dark secrets slowly. Her characters are well-developed, believable, and we feel the growing sense of terror they’re experiencing as the plot develops.
The first-person narrative works well here as we, like Donna, are never sure of the next moment or the next disturbing event. The uncertainty creates a tension throughout the work. My only issue was the length. The story builds to a wonderful climax, but then seems to just end rather abruptly. Rather than develop the ghosts as unique characters, DeLuca chooses to use them more as a collective haunting and the novella becomes focused on the paranormal event rather than character. Had this been flipped, the story might have been drawn out further and developed into a full-length book.
A minor flaw in a great story however. It reads well, moves along quickly, and keeps you in a tense ball of fear. Nicely done.
Keep your eyes peeled, Messages from the Dead streets on July 30th.