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WesternSFA
Happy Acres Haunted Hotel for Active Seniors
by Gini Koch
$7.00 QPB, 54pp
Release Date: June 11, 2013
One of the best reasons for going to an SF convention is to meet authors and other Guests of Honor. At Coppercon this year, Gini Koch, who is an amazing, awesome lady, became a last minute Guest of Honor. I was able to get a copy of Happy Acres autographed and personalized. She answered some of the questions I had about this story while refusing to answer others, on the grounds that there may be sequels. I hope there are, for I dearly love a good ghost story, and this one has all my favorite elements: humor; a strong, likeable protagonist and a diverse cast of characters; a dash of romance; a bit of history; a whiff of horror; the supernatural, of course; and – hurrah! – just desserts (with a dash of cinnamon). This is an adaptable recipe that lends itself well to sequels, for any of the elements can be developed further: more horror, less humor for one sequel; maybe more history and romance in another. After all, southern California has a lot of history.

The residents at Happy Acres are indeed an active lot, led by the irrepressible Mattie, who has outlived three husbands and isn’t tired of men yet. She takes a lively interest in a new arrival, and if the new arrival is a handsome man of parts, so much the better! When tall, handsome, well-groomed Samuel Davidson becomes the newest resident of Happy Acres, Mattie is delighted, and so are Janice, Joseph, and eyelash-fluttering Betsy. (Mattie has her rivals, but she can hold her own.)

But when Samuel’s grand-daughter Sarah comes to visit, Mattie discovers that all is not well with the family, and she is determined to set things right. Now, two wrongs do not make a right, but sometimes you need a dangerous ally to divert fresh evil from its course.

Happy Acres really is haunted, for it used to be a hospital, and over the decades many souls crossed the threshold, but not all of them went into the light. Some chose to remain behind for benign, or at least innocuous reasons, and these are the haunts that the residents keep company: the ghosts of babies who cry unless lullabies are sung to them (preferably in three-part harmony), and sundry departed who have retained an interest in those still living, or in their fellow ghosts. The living and the dead get on quite amicably; for the most part.

Hospitals almost always have a dark side, and this one certainly did. The lower basement level had been the psychiatric ward, and the ghosts who haunt it are demented, miserable, mad and cruel. The lower basement of Happy Acres is a microcosm of hell. It is to this hell that Mattie must go to find a solution to Sarah’s troubles.

There is much more to this story than I have indicated, for I really do not want to give away spoilers. Suffice it to say that this is a gem of a story, and I strongly recommend it. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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