I initially became aware of Barbara Avon’s latest book Owl Eyes Motel from her book trailer available on YouTube. The creepy tone of the spare musical notes, the cut scenes, the darkened hallway, all conjure a terrifying horror flick. The video is skillfully crafted and in itself could be nightmare-provoking. If you haven’t watched this already, I encourage you to click here:
While the trailer made me long for a movie to watch, the book does not disappoint. The author has brilliantly structured an inventive series of spine-tingling stories all taking place in the same motel, each guest inhabiting a different suite number in the establishment, and their own chapter in the book. As other reviewers have alluded to, the Eagles song “Hotel California” is an appropriate hymn for the novel, as the reader will soon discover after the first few chapters. I am curious if perhaps this served as the author's inspiration.
Barbara Avon is a superb storyteller breathing life into unique characters on the page with their own distinct voices and backstories. That all of the tales are held together by the cohesion of the motel, its history of being a hospital with one level dedicated as a psychiatric ward is an exquisite backstory and also brings to mind a classic of the horror genre, Stephen King’s The Shining. The author cautions that some scenes contain dark and sensitive topics, which is true, but I was not put off by any of the content (as a point of comparison, I stopped reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods after the man disappeared inside of… another character). The visitors to the Owl Eyes Motel are vivid and realistic, causing the reader to be sympathetic to their desires and their fears, in some cases even their guilt.
The author introduces complete personalities with their attributes revealed through sharp dialogue that rings true to life. She expertly employs flashbacks to expose their past experiences and to build the narrative arc for each tale. Laced with themes of betrayal, there is also some hope for redemption among the folks who land here and a modicum of optimism cultivated by the affable host Milton, owner of the motel. Through the persistent rain motif, which harkens foreboding and introspection, perhaps even the possibility of rebirth, the sinners are sorted and tallied in his ledger; an existential accounting.
I have not previously read any of Barbara Avon’s other books but am looking forward to choosing another of her titles for my list of books to read.
Find out more about the author and her books here: https://www.barbaraavon.com/