After Alice Fell

Kim Taylor Blakemore

Book Cover

GENRE

MYSTERY GOTHIC HISTORICAL FICTION SUSPENSE/THRILLER DRAMA

    Core Theme

    DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY. FAMILY SECRETS. MENTAL HEALTH IN THE 1860'S AMERICA. LIFE AT THE END OF THE CIVIL WAR

    TIME PERIOD

    19th Century

    COMPARABLE TITLES

    SHUTTER ISLAND, THE SNAKE PIT.

    CHARACTER LIST

    MARION ABBOTT. 36. UNION ARMY NURSE. WAR WIDOW. SMART, COMPLEX, AND DETERMINED.

    ALICE SNOW. 24. MARION'S SISTER. MENTALLY FRAGILE.

    LIONEL SNOW. 34. MARION AND ALICE'S. INSECURE AND WEAK.

    CATHY. 30. LIONEL'S SECOND WIFE. ANTAGONIST. MANIPULATIVE AND EVIL. SHE KILLED ALICE.

    TOBY. 8. LIONEL'S SON FROM HIS FIRST WIFE. SWEET AND CLEVER.

    DR. MAYHEW. DIRECTOR OF THE BRAWDERS HOUSE ASYLUM.

    Logline

    New Hampshire, 1865. Marion Abbott is summoned to the morgue at Brawders House asylum to collect the body of her sister, Alice. She’d been found dead after falling four stories from a steep-pitched roof. Officially: an accident. Confidentially: suicide. But Marion believes a third option: murder.

    Target Audiences

    Age: 35-54,18-34,55+

    Target Gender: Female Leaning,Universal

    Setting

    New Hampshire

    Based on a True Story

    No

    Publishing Details

    Status: Yes: with a Publisher

    Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

    Year Published: 2021

    Starting Description

    Marion Abbott is called to the morgue at Brawders Asylum for the Insane to identify and collect the body of her sister, Alice. When preparing the body for burial, she spies bruises on Alice's forehead, wrists, and ankles, and arouse Marion's suspicions.

    Ending Description

    After following Alice's clues, Marion confronts her sister-in-law Cathy with an accusation of murder, and fights for her life when Cathy chases her in the woods, intent on silencing her as she did Alice. Marion then has Cathy committed to the same asylum Alice died in, giving justice to Alice.

    Group Specific

    Information not completed

    Hard Copy Available

    Yes

    ISBN

    978-1542022705

    Mature Audience Themes

    Information not completed

    Plot - Other Elements

    Twist,Happy Ending

    Plot - Premise

    Overcoming Monster/Villain

    Main Character Details

    Name: Marion Abbott

    Age: 36

    Gender: Female

    Role: Protagonist

    Key Traits: Complex,Decisive,Heroic,Honorable,Underdog,Skillful,Outspoken

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Cathy Snow

    Age: 30

    Gender: Female

    Role: Antagonist

    Key Traits: Villainous,Narcisstic,Unapologetic,Manipulative,Secretive

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Lionel Snow

    Age: 34

    Gender: Male

    Role: skeptic

    Key Traits: Masculine,Narcisstic,Secretive,Insecure,Desperate,Complex,Clumsy

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Kitty Swain

    Age: 19

    Gender: Female

    Role: emotional

    Key Traits:

    Development Pitch

    After Alice Fell is a story of secrets within secrets. A dead first wife. A mentally fragile sister committed to an asylum and now dead. A husband on the verge of bankruptcy. A second wife with an open wallet and an iron fist. An asylum director who burns records. An itinerant worker with a past at the asylum and now looking to blackmail the family. Returning to her family home to stay with her brother and his second wife, the recently widowed Marion Abbott is expected to quiet her feelings of guilt and grief―to let go of the dead and embrace the living. But that’s not easy in this house full of haunting memories. Just when the search for the truth of her sister's death seems hopeless, a stranger approaches Marion with chilling words: I saw her fall. Now Marion is more determined than ever to find out what happened that night at Brawders, and why. With no one she can trust, Marion may risk her own life to uncover the secrets buried with Alice in the family plot. A dark gothic thriller about family loyalty and redemption, After Alice Fell is suited for both film and a limited TV series.

    Genre

    SUSPENSE, THRILLER, DRAMA

    Brief

    New Hampshire, 1865. Marion Abbott is requested to Brawders House Asylum to collect the body of her sister, Alice, who had been found after she fell from the roof four stories down. The asylum considered it a suicide. Marion, however, believes Alice was murdered. She is determined to find out what happened at the mental institution and why. Marion risks her life to uncover the secrets buried with Alice.

    Overall Rating

    FAIR

    Point of View

    FIRST PERSON

    Narrative Elements

    Authors Writing Style: FAIR

    Characterization: EXCELLENT

    Commerciality: FAIR

    Franchise Potential: FAIR

    Pace: FAIR

    Premise: EXCELLENT

    Structure: FAIR

    Theme: GOOD

    Accuracy of Book Profile

    Yes, the profile is accurate.

    Draw of Story

    Women in asylums during Victorian times is an intriguing and unique premise. Mostly, the story was filled with mystery, not only about Alice's death but also the events taking place at the asylum and Lionel and Cathy’s house. The narrative is also a fascinating look at the lives of white women during the 1800s, as Marion experiences conflicting emotions when caring for her mentally challenged sister Alice, trying to reconcile with her personal traumas and individual past.

    Possible Drawbacks

    There is an extremely slow pace to the story. Alice falls from a rooftop at the beginning of the book, but nothing happens until the second half when it rushes over details. Initially, the POV is Marion's, but in chapter 32, it switches to Cathy's voice without explanation, which seems out of place and confusing. In addition, the narrator described several actions in unnecessary detail, including the wallpaper that the narrator's brother's wife put up. Although it is beautiful and helps create atmosphere, it also distracts from the main storyline.

    Use of Special Effects

    THE STORY RELIES A LITTLE BIT ON SPECIAL EFFECTS

    Primary Hook of Story

    The story revolves around obsession, manipulation, abuse, dysfunctional families, envy, and murder. It’s intriguing the premise of women in asylums during Victorian times and the terrible medical practices used at that time to treat mental illness. Additionally, the narrative highlights the hardships and struggles of post-Civil War life, and it gives a glimpse of the lives of white women in the 1800s, a time of sexism and oppression. A woman at that time had no power, and men tended not to believe her.

    Fanbase Potential

    It’s an intriguing narrative sure to find a significant audience. It is a compelling story about a woman investigating her sister's death in the midst of oppression and sexism.

    Awards Potential

    Suspense-thrillers are less likely to receive awards nominations, but stories dealing with social issues (mental health, healthcare, sexism) and having inspiring themes tend to be more highly regarded.

    Envisioned Budget

    MEDIUM BUDGET

    Similar Films/TV Series

    SHUTTER ISLAND, THE SNAKE PIT

    What’s New About the Story

    The premise is fascinating and unique: women in asylums during Victorian times. It’s also a snapshot into life in 1860's America, showing details of clothing, household items, healthcare, and even language usage. As a result of Alice's death, many questions are raised regarding her treatment at the asylum and the horrible conditions available to the mentally ill back then.

    Lead Characters

    Despite being revealed as dead in the first chapter, Alice is very much present throughout the story: in memory, in conversations, and through her influence on each character, particularly Toby and Marion. Marion has a strong will; she is smart and an independent woman fighting for her right to be heard while living in a male-dominated society. Cathy is extremely selfish and manipulative and could be developed as a great character if explored in depth.

    Uniqueness of Story

    It is enthralling and fascinating the idea of women in asylums during Victorian times and the storyline of a murder mystery in a mental hospital during the late 1800s. But it should pay more attention to motives and internal logic, exploring why things happen the way they do, since the narrative focused more on the setting than on the characters or their motivations.

    Possible Formats

    Film: Studio, Indie, Streaming TV Series: Network, Cable, Limited Run / Mini-Series, Streaming

    Analyst Recommendation

    WORK IN PROGRESS

    Justification

    It is a fascinating and unique premise, but it unfolds at a very slow pace. It's also a story that leaves the audience with a lot of unanswered questions at the end: why and how were Cathy and Lionel taken to the asylum? Marion murdered her mother, as Alice said, or was that flashback a nightmare induced by her medication? It lacks answers to important questions regarding who/what/when/where/why.

    Tips for Improvement

    Since the narrative focuses more on the setting than the characters or their motivations, it should work more on why things happen the way they do. Marion only mentions what actually happened to Alice in a casual way, based on her assumptions but without proven evidence. Finally, it's hard to say whether Marion is telling the truth or if we are witnessing her falling into the madness of her family. Regardless of the author's choice, the audience would be satisfied knowing what’s behind rather than left unsure and unsettled.

    Brief

    New Hampshire, 1865. Marion Abbott is requested to Brawders House asylum to collect the body of her sister, Alice. Her body had been found after she fell from the roof four stories down. It was considered an accident by the asylum, but it may also have been a suicide. Marion, however, believes Alice was murdered. She is determined to find out what happened at Brawders and why. With no one to trust, Marion risks her own life to uncover the secrets buried with Alice.

    What We Liked

    The premise is fascinating and unique: women in asylums during Victorian times. The narrative emphasizes the struggles and hardships of life at the end of the Civil War and reveals some of the shocking medical practices used at that time to treat mental illness. This novel is also an insightful portrait of what life was like for white women in the 1800s, a time of sexism and oppression.

    Film: A movie about this tale of lies, death, and betrayal would be sinister and with a gothic atmosphere. Lionel and Cathy's house, where most of the plot takes place, is somber and steeped in heavy emotions and hidden truths. As a set, the insane asylum is also fascinating to explore, as well as the treatment of the mentally ill at the time. On top of that, the 19th-century details are aesthetically interesting, giving a sense of how they cooked and eat, communicated by letter, dressed, cooled off in the heat.

    TV: As a TV series, the narrative presents several significant sub-plots but does not explore them in-depth, leaving many discussion points to develop in upcoming episodes: Marion's broken marriage, Lionel's ammunition factory failure, the death of Lionel's first wife, and subsequent remarriage to Cathy (her story by itself is a potential spin-off). It is also filled with descriptions of people's gestures, speech, and behavior, as well as 19th-century details that are visually appealing.

    Key points:
    1. Plot twist.
    2. Strong female characters.
    3. Outstanding mystery.
    4. Original subject.
    5. Social issues addressed.

    Synopsis

    New Hampshire, 1865. While the American Civil War was raging, Marion Abbott volunteered to nurse the wounded and her husband to fight. She has now returned to her home alone, as her husband died during the war. As a War Widow, Marion has only her husband’s pension to live on. There is nowhere else for her to go except to her family home. Her parents are dead, and the house is now occupied by her brother, Lionel; his second wife, Cathy; his son by his first wife, Lydia, who is named Toby; also two servants, Saoirse and Amos.

    Marion goes to occupy the guest room in Lionel’s home, filled with memories from their old family house. Cathy, who was best friends with Lionel's first wife Lydia, is trying to establish herself as the matriarch of her new family and takes steps to make Marion feel at home. But Cathy seems harsh towards her stepson, most likely due to his strong resemblance to his dead mother and his close relationship with his aunt Alice, who is Lionel and Marion's young sister.

    Alice stopped speaking one day at the age of 14, shortly before her mother died. After that, with a bit of OCD, she communicated by sounds, sobs, and screams. While Marion was working during the war, Lionel was forced to put Alice in the Brawders House Asylum, the mental institution where she was admitted. Lionel and Cathy caught Alice hanging Toby out of the top floor window by his ankles.

    On a hot summer day, Lionel and Marion are called to the asylum, where they learn that Alice fell off the roof. As a skilled lock-picker, Alice is believed to have slipped past all security measures to climb to the roof. It is at least the version provided by Dr. Mayhew, director of Brawder's House Asylum. But the accident doesn’t make sense to Marion, who grew up taking care of her creative and sensitive sister.

    As Marion prepares for Alice's funeral, she is shocked by the body's condition; the bruises and evidence of punishment do not sit well with her. There is a feeling amongst everyone at the house that they want to move on from Alice and forget all about her. Alice was said to be in a sanatorium for addiction. Nobody except Marion doubts Alice's death explanation.

    The asylum turns against her and refuses to answer her questions. Dr. Mayhew is unsure how Alice escaped her room, went past attendants, and climbed up the roof. When Marion confronts him, he claims Alice had actually committed suicide, and he said it was accidental to spare the family more pain.

    In response to Marion's insistent questioning regarding Alice's death, Cathy becomes abusive. With a threatening tone in his voice, Lionel claims she is acting like a madwoman, just like Alice. Marion refuses to back down and struggles to accept that her sister committed suicide; she loved Alice, but for Lionel and Cathy, she was an embarrassment.

    Her suspicions about the circumstances surrounding Alice's death are supported only by Toby. Marion is convinced that Alice did not commit suicide when she is contacted by a witness to the incident who paints a very different picture than what her family was told. This leads Marion to question things that really happened to her sister.

    Marion discovers clues Alice left behind about how her family treated her. As a result of her investigations, Marion confronts Cathy with an accusation of murder and fights for her life when Cathy chases her in the woods, determined to silence her as she did Alice. Marion then has Cathy and Lionel committed to the same asylum Alice died in, giving justice to her sister.

    About The Author

    Kim Taylor Blakemore has a Tucson Festival of Books Literary Award and three Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) grants. She is also a member of the Historical Novel Society, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime. Outside of writing, she is a novel coach, a history nerd, and a gothic novel lover.