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A frighteningly good debut.

Mysterious guests overstay their welcome in this fresh take on the haunted house trope.

Eve Palmer makes the biggest mistake of her life when there’s a knock on the door from a man who says he grew up in her house. Against her better instincts she invites him and his family inside, but a 15-minute look around turns into a world of trouble when she can’t get them to leave. First the Faust family’s young daughter disappears in the basement; then a storm hits and the roads are blocked, giving them no choice but to spend the night. Soon rooms appear altered, strange odors waft through the house, and a toy chimp from Eve’s childhood seems to be sending her a warning: "Once they’re in, they never leave." Kliewer’s original and extremely scary story gathers elements inspired by authors like Shirley Jackson and classic horror films including Invasion of the Body Snatchers. He’s created a can’t-look-away imaginary world in which people and places aren’t what they appear. Readers will be as shaken as Eve, who fears she’s suffering from delusions when an apparition warns her that the Fausts—and even her partner, Charlie—aren’t who they say they are. Inserted between the book’s chapters are "documents" that lay out evidence collected by conspiracy theorists who believe what’s happening to Eve has nothing to do with delusions. This alternate storyline, written in the style of Reddit—Kliewer’s novel grew out of a novella he posted there—feels jarring at times, as we’re reluctantly pulled away from Eve’s gripping tale. The conspiracy theorists’ creepy posts aren’t quite as hypnotic, but they solidify the plot’s premise and neatly tie up Eve’s predicament. Fans of the surging horror genre will think twice about opening the door when somebody knocks.

A frighteningly good debut.

Pub Date: June 18, 2024

ISBN: 9781982198787

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Emily Bestler/Atria

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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A grim theme with a compelling and complex plot.

A one-eyed boy becomes a monster’s prey in this chilling tale of missing children.

Thirteen-year-old Missouri boy Joseph “Patch” Macauley was born with one eye, so he wears an eye patch and imagines himself a pirate. In 1975, he sees a masked man assaulting a girl in the woods. He attacks the man and saves her, but the predator kidnaps him instead. Patch eventually wakes in total darkness in a cellar where a different girl secretly visits him, heard but always unseen. He learns that her name is Grace and that there have been other girls down there before. Grace paints vivid word pictures of the places she’s seen and of stories by authors like Steinbeck. “Pray and stay alive,” she whispers to Patch. Eventually he escapes, but she is nowhere to be found. Searching for Grace is the underlying thread in a complicated quest that takes unexpected turns over the years and might well bring heartbreak. Meanwhile, the bodies of three girls turn up locally, and their parents grieve. Is the town doctor responsible for their deaths? A local school photographer? Both? Patch paints an image of Grace based only on what he’d heard from her in the cellar; then come more paintings and displays in an art gallery—an implausible achievement for an untrained artist. Meanwhile, Grace may be anywhere, and he must find her whether alive or dead. By now an adult, he “pinball[s]” from state to state, meeting with “a dozen families looking for a dozen lost girls.” To sustain himself he robs banks with an unloaded flintlock, and he shares his loot with organizations that are looking for missing children. He has “reasoned the truest proof of life [is] pain,” and he vows that he will die before he quits his search. This is much more than a whodunit, though it fills that bill well. It is also a richly layered tale of love, loss, and hope.

A grim theme with a compelling and complex plot.

Pub Date: June 25, 2024

ISBN: 9780593798874

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: tomorrow

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A weird, wild ride.

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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