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Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers' Favorite
The House of Nottingham, by R. L. Burgess, is a moody, psychological novella of mystery, suspense, and redemption. We begin with the strange House of Nottingham, which has a history within its walls. It's a Tudor mansion, with rooms to explore, but the house teaches the main character Shayla lessons about herself which are just as mysterious. She has memories and fears that need answers, and this house draws her like a magnet in the way that The Overlook draws Jack in Stephen King's The Shining. But this is where the similarities end. Burgess has created a concise work of storytelling that will pull you in and have you unraveling the mystery of Shayla right alongside her. Burgess creates an atmospheric story of mental health and dark imagery, and there are some violent and sexual scenes so that trigger warnings may apply.
I like how the author infuses her writing with her background in psychology, as it adds a layer of realism and depth. Her use of vivid descriptions plays on your imagination, and right away, you are involved in the stage she sets. We find ourselves in the middle of a flashback with Shayla and Logan and beautiful horses with lovely names. This flashback informs the audience of the later developments that unfold in the mansion, beginning with the forest that seems to come alive around her, glowing red eyes included. Shayla tells herself these things aren't real... but are they? I like how the author places the plot out of sequence so that you are as mystified as Shayla as to what is going on and how she is feeling. This nonlinear style works well for this story and also heightens the mystery and suspense.
Each room draws Shayla in, and each one holds a secret. You'll find mental challenges, spirituality, symbolism, and some romance. In this way, the novella may remind you of an immersive hidden object game, where you explore each room, never knowing what to expect or where it will lead to next. The plot is tight, the dialogue natural, the conflict real, and the pacing perfect. I like the unexpected twists the author creates, and of course, the satisfying ending. Treat yourself to The House of Nottingham by R. L. Burgess for an intense work of dark entertainment and psychological mystery.