Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

To Sail A Darkling Sea-John Ringo

February 11, 2014

To Sail A Darkling Sea
John Ringo
Baen, Feb 4 2014, $25.00
ISBN: 9781476736211

His brother warned Steven John Smith of a pandemic disease that starts off like an airborne flu, but turns into a neurological disorder transmitted by bites from sick victims. Heeding his sibling’s cautionary advice to head out to sea, the former Aussie Para Steven managed to get his wife Stacey and their two teenage daughters (Sophia Lynn and Faith Marie) out of West Virginia (see Under a Graveyard Sky).

As the world is under siege, the Navy appoints Steven as Commander of the US Navy Atlantic fleet after his success at eradicating zombie nests at sea; his daughters receive officer commissions too. Currently they bravely try to clean out the Iwo Jima from the infected while hoping to rescue those still human trapped inside.

Though this Black Tide Rising apocalypse thriller has the feel of a middle book as the overarching premise feels stalled at sea, readers will appreciate the action-filled (except when the brass pontificates) tale as zombie cleansing is a hazardous occupation. Fast-paced throughout, John Ringo provides an entertaining zombie war tale with civilization forced To Sail A Darkling Sea that needs cleansing the oceans of the madness that occupies the land.

Harriet Klausner

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The Vanishing-Wendy Webb

January 28, 2014

The Vanishing
Wendy Webb
Hyperion, Jan 21 2014, $15.99
ISBN 9781401341947

Three months ago in Chicago, novelist Julia Bishop’s husband Jeremy committed suicide when his Ponzi investment scheme collapsed. His death left his widow holding the bag of a myriad of lawsuits from irate investors and possible criminal charges of being his partner even while she claims she was unaware of his illegal endeavor.

Though they never met before, Adrian Sinclair visits Julia at her home with an employment proposition that will enable her to escape the howling wolves wanting her blood. She accepts his job offer of companion to his aging mother at their Havenwood Estate in isolated northern Minnesota. Julia is amazed that Adrian’s mom is renowned horror author Amaris “the female Edgar Allan Poe” Sinclair, who reportedly died a decade ago; that Havenwood was the sight of a horrid eerie incident in 1875 involving a homicide and spiritualist Seraphina; and that spirits from that Reconstruction Era deadly event remain at the mansion with one of them insanely evil.

Wendy Webb’s latest supernatural (see The Tale of Halcyon Crane and The Fate of Mercy Alban) is an exciting contemporary haunted house thriller starring a woman who thought as she left Chicago nothing could be worse until she meets the occupants of Havenwood. Although the key late twist feels unsatisfactory and implausible (even with ghosts), readers will enjoy this haunting modern day gothic.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Duets-Christopher Golden (editor)

January 25, 2014

Dark Duets
Christopher Golden (editor)
Harper Voyager, Jan 7 2014, $25.99
ISBN 9780062240279

This seventeen story collection focuses on “tales of horror and dark fantasy” with the caveat that each contribution must be coauthored by a collaboration of at least two writers who previously never teamed up. The compilation is very well written as expected by the highly regarded participants, but the entries often miss the dark adjective requirement and ergo are rarely horrifying. “Violence is as American as Cherry Pie” (H. Raps Brown) for the deceased as much as the living in “Wielded” by Tom Piccirilli and T.M. Wright. In “Dark Witness” (Charlaine Harris and Rachel Caine) the female struggles to cope with rape. Erin persuades her BFF Jana to come to the party where the latter learns the hard way about the cost of “Blind Love” (father-daughter team Lansdale). The troll’s feeding tastes would lock him away for life or execute him in human society for two distinct reasons in “Trip Trap” by Sherrilyn Kenyon and Kevin J. Anderson. This is a fun anthology but many of the tales use humor that lightens the intended darkness.

Harriet Klausner

Snowblind-Christopher Golden

January 21, 2014

Snowblind
Christopher Golden
St. Martin’s, Jan 21 2014, $25.99
ISBN 9781250015310

The citizens of Coventry were used to powerful blizzards, but this one was the strongest that anyone who survived could remember as affirmed by the records. Many died from exposure or accidents while some simply vanished with their bodies never found. Unnerving reports surfaced from those who endured the ordeal of blue-white “ice men” racing about in the blizzard at extraordinary impossible speeds.

A dozen years later, the citizens of Coventry prepare for the latest storm of the century. However, unlike the previous lethal mega storm of twelve years ago, confidence is long gone as those who lived through that horrific blizzard fear the ice men cometh for them.

In spite of a different season, the exciting Snowbound will remind readers of Stephen King’s Storm of the Century as they share the premise of a supernatural attack during a monster storm. Although why Coventry failed to become a ghost-town after the eerie deadly blizzard twelve years ago is left unanswered, readers will enjoy this suspenseful horror.

Harriet Klausner

Storm Demon-Gregory Lamberson

November 2, 2013

Storm Demon
Gregory Lamberson
Medallion Press, Oct 31 2013, $14.95
ISBN: 9781605427461

Following the completion of his mission to rescue his best friend Edgar Hopkins the “raven” from a witch doctor in New Orleans, Miami, and Pavot Island (see Tortured Spirits), ex-police officer turned private detective Jake Helman feels good being back in the Manhattan jungle. Besides saving his BFF, Jake looks forward to a relationship with Edgar’s NYPD homicide detective partner Maria Vasquez who teamed up with him on the paranormal “rumble in the jungle” (not the Ali-Foreman fight).

While he was traipsing the tropics, psychic healer Laurel Doniger vanished. Jake investigates Laurel’s disappearance by looking into the missing psychic’s past. Although the sleuth works the supernatural beat, which means meeting and frequently confronting strange creatures, even Jake is taken aback when his inquiry leads to Lilith the first succubus now known as Storm Demon planning to destroy New York City.

The fifth case in the Jake Helman Files (see Cosmic Forces, Desperate Souls and Personal Demons) is an exhilarating urban fantasy noir. Jake is terrific as he holds the fun story line focused while following clues that lead to an angry avenging malevolent who is the oldest female on the planet having been there when Adam and Eve fell from grace. Gregory Lamberson deftly blends humor and horror elements inside of a strong save the concrete jungle investigative thriller; summed up by the hero’s wry observation about needing flood insurance.

Harriet Klausner

The Influence-Bentley Little

October 31, 2013

The Influence
Bentley Little
Cemetery Dance, Oct 29 2013, $25.00
ISBN: 9781587674198

Engineer Ross Lowery lost his position at Air Research during the Great Recession and has not found work since. He always sent money to his family when they needed it even when he didn’t have much. However, now that he needs assistance, all (including his siblings) except his cousin Lita ignore him. Though not wealthy, Lita and her husband Dave invite Ross to stay with them in remote Magdalena, Arizona for a few months while he applies for jobs over the Net.

At the town’s New Year’s Eve bash, everyone shoots into sky at midnight; only something falls to the ground. Soon afterward the townsfolk begin to face changes in their fortunes. A rancher’s cattle die with eerie creatures leaving the corpses before vanishing and Lita’s eggs hatch lizards and spiders; Ross receives job offers and falls in love, and a beautician wins the mega lottery. When children vanish, realizing something is not right in Magdalena ever since the creature fell from the sky and altered 180 degrees the fortunes and misfortunes of everyone, Ross believes he and others must rescue the young and prevent whatever is occurring from spreading.

The Influence is a strong horror thriller in which darkness threatens life as the townsfolk knew it. The reactions by the affluent suddenly hammered by bad luck and the threat of poverty, and the impoverished suddenly charmed with a run of good fortune make for a super storyline. With deep underlying social messages from scriptures: “But by the grace of God I am what I am …” and “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (karma aside). Bentley Little provides a taut thought-provoking tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Dead Run-Adam Mansbach

October 5, 2013

The Dead Run
Adam Mansbach
Harper Voyager, Sep 24 2013, $25.99
ISBN 9780062199652

Jess Galvan works the lucrative cash crops trade that flows back and forth across the Tex-Mex border. He, like many locals, understands the risks of being caught on either side of transporting illegal goods, but Jess takes his chances as he needs money to pay for the best lawyer in the state in order to gain custody of his daughter Sherry from her religious nut mom Melinda Richards.

In Mexico, he sits in a bar waiting for his latest shipment to deliver to El Paso. He observes two patrons with a stoned teen who makes him think of Sherry. Though Jess knows to sit quietly until Pescador arrives with bearer’s bonds, he intercedes. One of the thugs is the Chief of Police so Jess is sentenced to ten years in prison for attempted murder. Unbeknownst to Galvan, Sherry vanishes and hysterical Melinda calls Del Verde County Sheriff Nichols as she fears her former cult grabbed her daughter. At the same time Tenochtitlan High Priest El Cucuy mentally takes control of Galvan and orders him to deliver a special package to Seth. If he fails to complete his mission he will dwell in hell; if he succeeds humanity will reside in hell on earth.

This exciting Aztec urban fantasy uses the Tex-Mex border as a bridge between the supernatural and the trafficking that goes both ways. Although the key cast is stereotyped, El Cucuy brings freshness with his Aztec beliefs and his ability from a distance to destroy enemies. . With a nod to the FX TV show The Bridge, this taut tale contains a believable (for the most part) paranormal plot, as Adam Mansbach uses Tex-Mex nation to spin an entertaining supernatural thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Tropic of Darkness-Tony Richards

September 25, 2013

Tropic of Darkness
Tony Richards
Pocket, Sep 17 2013, $1.99
ISBN: 9781476727097

In 1958, a disgusted and disappointed Meyer Lansky flies from Vegas to Havana. Two big goons meet him at the airport to tell him that Mario Mantegna is acting strange by insisting she is “under my skin” and he needs her back. Meyer confronts Mario though a closed hotel suite door; instead of responding Mario kills himself.

In 1995, Frank returns from a business trip to his home in Toronto. His wife Ellen notices him acting strange as he sings in his sleep about a girl “under my skin”. She can’t wake him up so calls Dr. Hague; Frank kills himself with a knife.

A few days after Frank’s suicide, Jack Gilliard arrives in Havana. This is his latest stop while on his decade-long musical tour of the world with his cornet since he left his unhappy home in America when he was a teenager; his only other possession he prizes is a knife. Jack hopes to play some gigs in Cuba, but instead has haunting dreams of the Mafia ruling the island in the 1950s and Castro’s revolution. Disoriented Jack soon learns of an ancient curse involving a girl “under my skin” that once inside his head leads to suicide; to escape he must leave the island before he becomes the latest person singing I’ve Got You Under My Skin” as his funeral hymn.

Putting aside the late great Cole Porter’s reaction, Tropic of Darkness is an exciting horror thriller as the past haunts the present. Flashbacks add depth to understanding the curse and the related betrayal with Jack, due to his past, as the latest target of the darkness.

Harriet Klausner

Four Summoner’s Tales-Kelly Armstrong, Christopher Golden, David Liss, and Jonathan Maberry

September 23, 2013

Four Summoner’s Tales
Kelly Armstrong, Christopher Golden, David Liss, and Jonathan Maberry
Gallery, Sep 17 2013, $16.00
ISBN 9781451696684

“Suffer The Children” by Kelly Armstrong. A few centuries ago, a diphtheria epidemic wiped out over thirty percent of the isolated population of Chestnut Hill, Canada with many of the victims children. Two strangers offer the grieving townsfolk a chance to bring back those who died within the last 96 hours but the preacher and tweener orphan Addie warn the others but they prove too late when remittance of the usury price occurs.

“Pipers” by Christopher Golden. The Matamoros Cartel terrorizes the border town of Lansdale, Texas with almost two dozen murders as retaliation for the interference into their trafficking by the Texas Volunteer Border patrol. Angry resident Vickers tells those who lost someone to the brutal cartel that the time for revenge is now. He wants to raise an army of their undead loved ones.

“A Bad Season For Necromancy” by David Liss. In eighteenth century England, the con artist uses the book for raising the dead to blackmail wealthy widows who do not want the return of am angry husband.

“Alive Day” by Jonathan Maberry. In Afghanistan, Captain Joe Ledger and his Echo Team back-up Rattlesnake Team on a counterdrug mission against the Taliban, but instead the Americans confront something deadlier that later none of the survivors can provide a rationale explanation for.

These four diverse fantasies share the premise of “A strange visitor comes to town, offering to raise the townsfolk’s dearly departed from the dead—for a price.” Each is chillingly well written, but the standout is David Liss’ clever historical.

Harriet Klausner

The Savage Dead-Joe McKinney

September 21, 2013

The Savage Dead
Joe McKinney
Pinnacle, Sep 3 2013, $6.99
ISBN: 9780786029303

U.S. Senator Rachel Sutton is the most vocal opponent of the Mexican drug cartels in Congress. Her strong adversarial statements and the powerful law she sponsored anger the trafficker leaders like Ramon Medina who has attempted failed assassinations of Sutton; but were thwarted by Secret Service agents Juan Perez and Tess Compton who so far have kept “Piper” as the senator is called safe.

In Galveston, Sutton boards the Gulf Stream cruise ship for some needed R&R. However, Medina sends his top field operative Monica “Pilar” Rivas undercover on the vessel. Rivas releases Dr. Rosato’s modified clostridium bacteria on the Gulf Stream; turning people into flesh eating zombies. As the biological weapon spreads rapidly, Compton protects Piper from the lethal zombies and Rivas.

The latest Dead World urban fantasy (see Mutated, Dead City, Apocalypse of the Dead and Flesh Eaters) is an exhilarating sidebar thriller that takes place in a confined environment making it easier for the zombies to attack ( to the delight of Z fans). Though the reanimation starts later than the usual Joe McKinney Dead World horror novels and the cartel villains caricatures, readers will enjoy the undead horde ripping flesh in a closed limited area; just don’t read this taut tale if you are vacationing on a cruise ship.

Harriet Klausner