"Seven Cleopatra Hill" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Silver Shamrock Publishing

seven cleopatra hill justin holley poster large

Written by Justin Holley
2020, 262 pages, Fiction
Released on 6th April, 2020


Almost all of Seven Cleopatra Hill is set in and around the Jerome Grand Hotel just as a big storm is creeping in. The weather forecast predicts this will be the biggest snowfall for thirty years and the guests at the hotel are advised by the local police to head back down the mountain before the weather goes much further south. They are predicting up to three feet of snow and potentially being stranded in the complex for several days before rescue teams can dig them out. This remote hotel, which is nestled on the top of a mountain, has the potential to be a terrifying setting for a horror novel, but as the is story quite light in nature it never achieves this, lacking the atmosphere required to be genuinely top-drawer.

In the opening pages main character James Landes and his wife Victoria arrive at the hotel and whilst checking in he swears he sees the elderly worker operating the desk hiding a huge butcher’s knife. I was not too sure whether this was supposed to be amusing or a clunky example of foreshadowing. Either way, it is too obvious and not the most subtle of way of hinting things might be on a downward spiral. Seven Cleopatra Hill retains this easy-going, almost chatty tone, throughout its entirety and as a horror story I did struggle to take it seriously. This is a shame, as so much more could have been done with the remote and threatening location

Victoria Landes is an aspiring romantic fiction writer who is attending a writing convention hosted by the hotel and when the weather worsens, she and her husband decide to stay. She loves mixing with the other writers; he is looking forward to chilling, drinking and some fun with his wife. They are a very engaging couple and the scenes when he goes into schoolteacher mode are quite funny, as he thought his science teacher routine could be used on just about anyone. Obviously, the couple are going to get much more than a dirty weekend away and that’s when the fun starts. The writing retreat backdrop to the main story is also quirky and produces some entertaining moments with James looking down his nose at men who write romantic fiction.

After James hears a weird sound outside his room, he meets two kids, Miles and Janey, who are exploring the hotel, which they explain to James is supposed to be haunted. The little girl swears a lot and after a while this begins to grate, as the repeated use of the word ‘c**t’ when she gets triggered is seriously tiresome. According to the word search function in the Kindle, she uses it 31 times. The young pair come from a family who makes true haunting documentaries and is on the hunt for paranormal activity in the hotel. Although it has nothing to do with the main plot, Janey also has psychic abilities. For the most part, the kids are nice and resilient characters and show more spirit than many of the adults and this is an enjoyable diversion, as the kids are excited by all the blood and guts rather than scared. On the downside, absolutely nothing is made of the potential side story regarding paranormal filmmaking, which might have been an extra angle.

Seven Cleopatra Hill does have some amusing scenes which balance nicely with the horror; including when Victoria is lured into a hotel room and attacked by an elderly lady. It is ridiculous, the senior citizen wielding an iron, but it is so stupid it made me chuckle.  Certain scenes try to be gross, for example, intestines being dragged out of a window, but I just could not take it seriously and so the shock factor is practically zero. Or another scene where a character is quite literally pulled through prison bars. All this is all part of the wider conspiracy, which is key to the plot, especially when the body count begins to mount, with James and Victoria unsure who they can trust. As well as fighting for his life, James enjoys feeling sorry for himself and some of the scenes when he is outside battling in the snow made me smile, especially as he missed his dinner! Not really the holiday he had planned, and I enjoyed the way the book portrays him as a normal guy in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Sheriff Robbie and his deputies also play a crucial role in proceedings; Robbie is relatively new to the job and is not aware of what he has let himself in for. There is also a side romantic story between two of the deputies and other character developments dropped in.  I’m not going to say too much about the supernatural element except for the fact I did not find it hugely convincing and in the end slightly disappointing. However, the author does well shrouding the beast and its true origins until well into proceedings.

Over the last year Silver Shamrock has released some excellent novellas and although 262 pages is not a huge book, it still feels too long and might have made a much tighter novella if shorter. However, Seven Cleopatra Hill is still a relatively easy book to read, has some outstanding scenes, some funny moments (intentional or not), but in the end is slightly too light for my taste. Other readers may well enjoy this slightly diverting read much more than I, so check out what other reviewers have to say.


Overall: fourstars Cover
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Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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