Publisher: Zealous Arts Publishing
Date of publication: August 10th, 2022
Genre: Gothic, Horror
Series: Owl Manor Trilogy
Owl Manor: The Dawning—Book 1 (review here)
Owl Manor: Abigail—Book 2 (review here)
Owl Manor: The Final Stroke—Book 3
Purchase Links: Amazon
For a quarter of a century, the horrors at Owl Manor have been buried under dust and decay, forgotten and unheard.
Then Dolores hears the whispers.
Dolores, a young artist, feels the pain all around her. It is the subject of her paintings. Strangely, once the pain is on her canvas, it diminishes.
A fated encounter takes her and her two best friends to Owl Manor in the Rocky Mountains. Ignoring the rumors of a gruesome past and ghosts, they take up residence. What’s the worst that could happen?
But it is the past that has summoned Dolores.
The owls begin to circle the sky again. The whispers get louder, seeping into each of their souls. And Dolores, besieged by the pain of brutal murders in the manor’s history, has no choice but to paint.
For the lives of those close to her hang in the balance.
Inspired by authors like Edgar Allan Poe (The Raven), Daphne du Maurier (Jamaica Inn), and Shirley Jackson (The Haunting of Hill House), Owl Manor – the Final Stroke is the third and final book in the Owl Manor trilogy of Gothic Suspense novels. It follows Owl Manor – the Dawning and Owl Manor – Abigail.
My worn books squelched through mud and grit as I trudged down the main thoroughfare of a town.Owl Manor—The Final Stroke by Zita Harrison
I cannot stress this enough (and I have mentioned it a few times in the previous two reviews for this series), I cannot read Gothic/horror without my husband being home. After finishing this book, I couldn’t close my eyes without seeing several of Dolores’s paintings, Kitty’s theater, or even Rachel’s descent into madness. I was so unnerved by this book, and that was a good thing!!!
Owl Manor—The Final Stroke is the 3rd book in the Owl Manor trilogy. While you can read this as a standalone book, I recommend reading books 1 and 2 first. That way, you can learn about the events that lead up to this book and how they influenced the events that take place in this book.
The author did write a forward to the book explaining how it was written. This book is written in language that was common for the time. She explained that the language combines British English and frontier dialect but is moving towards an informal American dialect. She cited a website (etymobline.com) that she used in her research to make sure it was as authentic as possible.
Owl Manor—The Final Stroke takes place around 30 years after the events of Abigail and around 50ish years after The Dawning. Dolores, Kitty, and Rachel are three friends looking for a place to open a combination restaurant/theater/art gallery. Dolores finds a carved owl at a local fair, and the seller, a young boy, tells her it is from a mansion in the mountains outside of Denver. After seeing the estate, they decide to buy it and renovate it back to its former glory. But, once living there, Dolores (an empath) starts painting pictures of murdered women, the victims of Rafe Bradstone. Her dreams reach a fever pitch as women are being murdered in Denver, and she is compelled to paint them. With Kitty going down a path that includes opium use and promiscuity and Rachel spiraling down into madness, Dolores needs to get to the heart of the mystery, Owl Manor. But can she do it in time to save herself and her friends? Or will they end up being more victims of Owl Manor?
I loved Dolores’s character. She was your typical turn-of-the-century artsy girl who dreamed of doing nothing but her art. She was also an empath who used her art to channel the pain of what she was feeling to canvas. So, when she started having nightmares and was compelled to paint them, it wasn’t new to her. But what was new was how graphic and terrifying the paintings were. The author could take Dolores’s initial feelings and expand on them. Dolores became alarmed at what she was doing. She did try to stop (the scene where she tried to burn the painting will be forever etched in my head) but couldn’t. I was terrified for her when she started painting murders that had just happened. I am going to stop there because of spoilers.
I liked Kitty’s character, but I was not too fond of the turn she took. She had a great vision for her theater, and I thought her first two shows were great. But then, she listened to Cecil, and everything turned. She went from this bright, vibrant girl to someone I didn’t even recognize. It saddened me and made her suspect when prostitutes were being killed in Denver.
I was not too fond of Rachel. She rubbed me the wrong way the entire book. I wasn’t surprised when she started hearing (and eventually seeing) Rafe. I wasn’t surprised by her attitude towards Kitty or how she refused to listen to Dolores. I did, however, think it was interesting that she was the one who looked up Owl Manor’s past, and she was the one who found Rafe’s letters to his father. I did feel bad for her in the end, mainly because she ended up being a pawn in something much bigger than her.
I enjoyed reading the storyline with Dolores, the girls, and their business. I was fascinated to see how it would do. Despite what was going on and how everything turned out, I was still rooting for them to succeed.
The storyline with Dolores and her paintings was frightening. I didn’t blame her for being as scared or fighting it as she was. I knew her paintings connected to Rafe, but I wasn’t sure what the connection was. I thought she might have been Abigail’s daughter, but that was dashed relatively early in the book.
Kitty’s storyline was a little frightening. It showcased how someone like Cecil could easily lead someone as naive as Kitty down the wrong path. Her 180 change of morals and attitude didn’t help with that conception either. I admit that I thought it was Kitty doing the killing until almost the end.
Rachel’s storyline was sad to read. While I didn’t like her, I did think that she had a valid point about being so angry early on in the book. But, as Rafe’s spirit drew her in, I could see her falling down that rabbit hole. I was verbally yelling “No” as she started acting more erratic.
The storyline with Rafe, Eva, and the ghosts was terrifying. I felt terrible for Rafe and the fact that, even in death, he was lost without Eva. So, having that part of the storyline wrapped up the way it did make sense. But the other part of the storyline, the one with the ghosts of the women he murdered, was chilling. I understood that they wanted their stories told, but possession was a little too far in my eyes.
The storyline with the killer was interesting. There were quite a few characters to pick from, and I felt that any of them (except Dolores) could have been the killer. Heck, I even had Gabriel on the shortlist!!
I felt that the author wrote the horror angle of Owl Manor—The Final Stroke amazingly. I was creeped out by what was happening in the manor. I was also creeped out by what was happening mentally and physically to the girls.
There was a slight romance angle to the book that I wasn’t too fond of. But, it didn’t get in the way of the main storylines, and it did add some extra depth to Dolores’s character arc.
The end of Owl Manor—The Final Stroke was interesting. I had chills reading it!! I loved how the author wrapped up the storyline of Rafe and Eva. I also liked how she wrapped up Dolores, Kitty, and Rachel’s storylines. As for the killer, I was shocked at who it ended up being. That person didn’t even make my “who is the killer” list or was even on my radar.
I would recommend Owl Manor—The Final Stroke to anyone over 21. There are sexual situations, mild language, and violence. There is also drug use (Kitty taking opiates) and forced sexual encounters (again, Kitty during the last of her theater dates).
If you enjoyed reading Owl Manor—The Final Stroke, you will enjoy these books: