The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn
Jude Brighton is missing, and only his ten-year-old cousin, Stevie, seems concerned. Most of the town regards Jude as merely trouble, and write him off as a likely runaway. But Jude isn’t the first disappearance from the small town of Deer Valley, Oregon. Pets have long gone missing from backyards, and years ago another young boy went missing, found weeks later torn to pieces . . . The adults in town seem determined to avoid thinking about these mysteries, and it seems that Stevie may have to take matters into his own hands.
It has been a while since I’ve read a true horror novel, and I came away from The Devil Crept In with a renewed love of the genre. Ahlborn has an excellent sense of suspense, and fills the narrative with enough background menace to keep the reader on edge throughout the book.
In addition, Stevie, our narrator, seems to be suffering from some schizophreniform disorder, adding a delicious uncertainty to everything about the book. Stevie is the ultimate unreliable narrator, and we can never be sure if the things that happen are real, or a product of his mental illness.
Ahlborn is a rare female voice in a genre nearly completely dominated by men. Fans of Stephen King, Nick Cutter, Joe Hill and other giants of the genre would do well to read her work. Ahlborn is clearly able to set her own bloody stake near the top of the hill of horror writers.
Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore
Fair Warning: From here on out, there will be MAJOR SPOILERS for the first book in this series, A Dirty Job. If you haven’t read A Dirty Job yet, you should really be reading that instead of this review.
So it’s been a year since the events of A Dirty Job; the apocalypse was averted, the underworld defeated, and Charlie Asher’s soul has been bound into a 14-inch high body made from animal parts and lunchmeat (and a 10-inch penis, naturally). This particular form being unsuited for parenting, his 7 year old daughter Sophie (Death with a big ‘D’) is being raised by his sister and her wife.
Then the keening (and insistent, especially where a taser is involved) wailing of a banshee warns that maybe the apocalypse wasn’t as averted as originally thought. It seems that thousands of spirits are being trapped by the Golden Gate Bridge, that the Morrigan are clawing their way back into the world, and that a new, smooth, death wannabe is wreaking havoc on the established order of things. Oh, and it seems that Sophie’s hellhounds have gone missing and her mojo might be on the wane.
I’ve been a huge fan of Christopher Moore ever since Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. Moore’s books are one of my go-tos when I need a comfort read. Secondhand Souls certainly follows in the Moore tradition, with the irreverent and (I mean this in the best possible way) juvenile humor that makes him so much fun. Now, I will say that this is not his strongest work, but maybe that is because A Dirty Job was easily one of his best. Without the pathos of single-dad Charlie Asher trying to figure out how to raise his death-incarnate daughter to be a well-rounded human being, the story is a bit flat. Nonetheless, I found myself laughing out loud and enjoying myself, so I feel the book was a success. Fans of Moore, Dave Barry, or A. Lee Martinez should absolutely pick up this book.
I won a copy of this book in a giveaway by William Morrow Pubishing.
A Time of Torment by john Connolly
This is the fourteenth installment in Connolly’s Charlie Parker series. It’s always difficult to come into a series this late, but I found A Time of Torment to be an engaging thriller.
Though the book weaves between several subplots (many of which are tied to events in previous books, or foreshadowing future books), the main focus of A Time of Torment is the unfortunate Jerome Burnel. Burnel is a fallen hero, lauded for preventing a massacre in the past, then brought low. Recently released from prison, Burnel seeks out private investigator Charlie Parker. Burnel tells Parker his story: the desperate few minutes fighting the horror that made him a hero, then the mysterious circumstances that presaged his imprisonment and torment. Burnel suspects his imprisonment may be related to his heroic actions, but there is only one lead to follow; a name whispered in the dark: The Dead King.
When Burnel goes missing, Charlie Parker must uncover the mysterious cabal that ruined Burnel’s life, and seek out and stop The Dead King before more blood is spilled.
A Time of Torment superbly blends the supernatural with a crime thriller. Connolly’s prose is elegant and visceral at the same time. While certain aspects of the plot are certainly better if one has read the previous books, A Time of Torment can stand alone with only a little difficulty. The pace of the book is fast, even in the detours from the main plot. The biggest complaint I can utter is that Charlie Parker seems to be a bit of a supporting character in this book, but that is mainly because the supporting characters are given a good bit of headway in which to grow. Charlie Parker doesn’t grow much as a character in A Time of Torment, but with fourteen books under his belt, and having recently been dead, the reader can forgive him for taking a break.
In all, this is a fast paced and enjoyable thriller. Fans of Dean Koontz, or Jonathan Maberry will enjoy this series.
An advance ebook was provided by the publisher, Atria Books, via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
The Ghost Bride By Yangsze Choo
5 out of 5 Stars
I started this book expecting it to be one thing, then it spun around on me and went in a completely unexpected direction, and I definitely enjoyed the ride!
Li Lan, an impoverished but genteel Chinese girl living in Malaya, receives an offer of marriage–to a dead man. The man’s wealthy family,are seeking a bride to help his soul rest in peace, an arrangement the dire financial straits of Li Lan’s family makes hard to resist. But resist she does, and Li Lan soon finds herself haunted by the dead man, the barrier between the living and the dead becoming thinner and thinner around her.
This is the start of the book: a well researched historical fiction, with a supernatural twist that somehow feels natural to the plot. However, within a a few chapters, catastrophe strikes for Li Lan, and even this unusual pairing can no longer contain the story. I suddenly found myself immersed in a murder mystery/ghost story that jumps between planes of existence and across the barrier of life and death. This description might make you think the book is chaotic, but the author beautifully weaves everything together into an interesting and original shape.
The characters in this book stand out for being superbly written. Their flaws, hopes, and dreams seem real and believable. I greatly enjoyed the repartee between the heroine, Li Lan, and her occasionally unwilling companion, Er Lang. My difficulty in this review is that I am loathe to tell too much of the plot, as one of the highlights of this book was the joy and surprise of following the story as it unfolds.
In all, a well-written and enjoyable book. If you don’t mind a bit of a ghost story with your historical fiction, or a bit of a monster movie in your mystery, this is a great book for you. The author brings colonial Malaya to life (and afterlife) in this book with vivid, accurate detail. Her use of Chinese and Malayan beliefs and superstition is glorious and well used in the plot. I would love to see a sequel on the horizon!