A teen takes on America’s first serial killer!
Hello, friends and foes! I’m back at it again with another book review. This one isn’t unlike the last (Check out The Corpse Queen book review here) as it’s a YA historical horror, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite sub-genres.
Bryce Moore released The Perfect Place to Die in 2021 and just recently published another YA historical horror (this time about the axe-man of New Orleans), Don’t Go to Sleep. The covers are pretty similar and they’re both about 17 year old girls fighting against a historical bad-guy. If this is Moore’s brand moving forward, I won’t complain.
This book follows 17 year old Zuretta of rural Utah. She and her sister live at the hands of their abusive father and, in the middle of one fateful night, her younger sister Ruby escapes. Ruby sends letters about her new life in Chicago, and the sights and sounds of the incredible World’s Fair. She even met a man- a man she plans to marry! When Ruby’s letters stop coming, Zuretta decides to pack up and go to the big city to find her. Even if it means facing a monster on her own.
Zuretta takes a job as a maid in a questionable hotel called The Castle, where girls are said to be disappearing. It was Ruby’s last place of employment. Perhaps the last place she was seen alive. If Zuretta can survive her harrowing job and three (or four?) bosses, she might just solve the murder of what happened to her sister. Even if the Pinkerton Guard won’t help her.
Okay. So I’ve been sitting on this review for a while because I wanted to be fair. I don’t like to give negative reviews (if the book was really terrible, I usually just leave a goodreads star rating and move on with my life), but I felt like I had to get something off my chest with this one.
If you know who H.H. Holmes is, then there’s honestly no point in reading this book. Let me explain.
Maybe it’s because I’m kind of a history nerd (or maybe I just watch too much History Channel in general), but I’ve been hearing about H.H. Holmes and his death-trap of a hotel for YEARS. Hell, American Horror Story even had Evan Peters play a caricature of him in Season 5, AHS: Hotel. We follow Zuretta on her quest to find her sister which leads her directly to H.H. Holmes’ doorstep. Like, literally, H.H. Holmes. No fake name for the man proclaimed to be America’s first serial killer.
Then we’re made to question who the killer is out of multiple people. Zuretta doesn’t know which of the several strange men who work at The Castle is the killer but she presumes it’s one of them. And she shouldn’t know, because Holmes hasn’t been ousted as a murderer yet in American History.
But the reader knows. At least, some readers will know.
So the whole plot of Zuretta trying to solve the mystery of the strange hotel and the strange owner and trying to figure out who killed her sister is a moot point. You’re sitting there after the first quarter of the book already knowing who killed Ruby, and who will try to kill Zuretta next. There are some smaller plot “twists” in between but all in all, if you know who H.H. Holmes is in real life, you know who the murderer is in the book.
I think Moore made the choice to use Holmes’ real name rather than making up a new name because the book is supposed to be an alternate version of true history. And if you didn’t know who Holmes’ actually was in real life, then the plot twist and finding out who the murderer is would probably a much more thrilling experience.
I wonder what if it would have been more interesting for the story to be told with a different goal: so the goal isn’t to discover who the murderer is (as in, is it Holmes or one of his henchmen) but perhaps who he’s trying to kill next? Or trying to stop him before he’ll kill again? If the entire plot wasn’t centered around discovering WHO the murderer was, it would have been a more exciting read.
Also, the back of the book made me think the World’s Fair would be more of a part of the plot but Zuretta only visits it one time. It could have been the perfect backdrop for a dramatic chase or some spooky scene but… it kind of fell flat in my opinion.
All in all I feel like the book was entertaining and a quick read. I just wish I didn’t already know the story of H.H. Holmes and have the entire plot ruined for me by real life (I hate when real life does stuff like this).
2 stars overall, 1 star on the scare scale
Reader beware, you’re in for a scare! Or, not. Trick-or-treat, after all.