"A signature Cash creation, full of both mayhem and heart."– Kirkus Reviews
In this existential thriller, a college student’s disconcerting history class may force her to face troubling memories.
Partying with friends and fighting with boyfriend Patrick are all that Amanda Greene remembers about last night. Her first day of college, however, is rife with fuzzy recollections. Her dorm roommate is unrecognizable, the greenery outside is replaced with autumn colors, and she’s scheduled for History 101 but is positive she didn’t register for it. History, as it turns out, is a little unsettling. The professor continues a lesson already begun, lecturing, it seems, only to Amanda and not the other students, “all facing front, like robots.” Escape for the increasingly uncomfortable Amanda doesn’t seem feasible: gloved fists are pounding at the door, along with something sporting thick, purplish skin. Answers to what’s going on may be tied to Amanda’s strangely familiar classmate, Nick Fortune. He doesn’t exactly clarify anything, but he acts as a guide: “You have to trust me,” he tells her. “Finish the lecture.” The professor discusses historical figures such as Joan of Arc and Lucrezia Borgia, but scenes from their lives are soon coupled with Amanda’s. She thinks back to years ago, at home with abhorrent stepbrother Wayne, and begins recalling disturbing details from the night before. Plot specifics in the novella are initially scarce, because the big reveal isn’t until the final pages. But the story thrives on atmosphere, with Amanda’s dizzying confusion giving the landscape an otherworldly aura. Some of the tale’s details are straight out of a horror novel, including Amanda’s distinct feeling of being watched and students on campus suddenly disappearing. But the prose is often subtle, slowly building up tension even if readers aren’t sure what’s so terrifying. Cash (Brood X, 2015, etc.) intermingles beauty and violence, like Amanda’s view from her dorm room window: “The leaves withering, curling, setting the branches on fire with vivid oranges, yellows, and reds.” Readers may guess the ending, but that won’t diminish its impact. It’s smartly ambiguous and open to interpretation, and some may delight in a second (or third) read.
The threat’s intangible,
but the imagery in this imposing tale is discernibly moody and uncanny.
From the author of Pokergeist (2015) comes a tale of teenagers at a theme park featuring actual zombies, vampires, and werewolves.
A plague has swept the globe, creating hordes of slow, flesh-starved zombies. Although this infected populace is contained in camps, the world economy has shuddered to a halt. Enter Moldavian philanthropist Dr. Vincent Conrad, who builds Monsterland parks in seven nations (including France and China) where visitors can, in safe environments, witness zombies, elusive werewolves, and the last portion of the vampire race. In the United States, the small town of Cooper Valley, California, will host Monsterland in exchange for a fresh water supply, a new medical center, and repaved roads. Highway patrolman Carter White is leery of Conrad’s true intent, particularly his claim that he’ll eventually find a cure for the plague. On Monsterland’s opening night, Carter attends as part of the additional security detail for the president and other dignitaries, but he’s surprised to learn that his stepsons, 17-year-old Wyatt and 14-year-old Josh, have won free VIP passes. The boys, as well as their teenage classmates Melvin and Howard, are monster fanatics, so Carter reluctantly allows them to attend. But the more Conrad assures everyone that the park is completely safe, the more Carter prepares for chaos. Author Cash brings his buoyant mix of terror and humor to a tale of three major monsters of classic horror. His take on zombies, werewolves, and vampires, much like his previous take on ghosts, is rooted in warmly likable characters. For example, Carter’s desire to be seen by his stepsons as a true father figure is hampered by Wyatt’s admiration of Conrad; Wyatt himself struggles to win over Jade, his lovely classmate, who’s dating Nolan, the bullying quarterback. Meanwhile, Cash portrays vampires Raoul and Sylvie as hair-metal has-beens who end up performing in Conrad’s Vampire Village rock opera. At its heart, the narrative cautions against soulless exploitation; in the suburban attraction Zombieville, for example, guests “were paused, filming with their cell phones. Signs pulled at [Wyatt]—buy this, purchase that.” The adventure ramps up to an enjoyably gore-soaked finale.
A signature Cash creation, full of both mayhem and heart.
After poker champion Clutch Henderson drops dead after losing the International Series of Poker, his ghost haunts wannabe player Telly Martin, touching off an uproarious adventure in which both the living and the dead discover their true selves.
Cash (Witches Protection Program, 2015, etc.) assembles a cast of eccentric characters, from sepulchral hoodie-shrouded Adam “the Ant” Antonowski to Clutch’s drunken ex, Jennifer, who gets arrested for using crooked dice in the casino. Much of the humor derives from the confusion of Telly responding to ghostly Clutch while others, who don’t see or hear Clutch, stand by to misinterpret. Though it’s a well-worn premise, Cash proves to be highly capable of juxtaposing the absurd and the mundane, creating a thoroughly enjoyable comic ghost story along the lines of The Canterville Ghost (1891) or Topper (1926). Clutch, for instance, is a spirit with an eye for the ladies. As he wanders the Las Vegas Strip, he inserts himself within a group of drunken women, one of whom vomits on him. When he later sees the same thing happen to Telly—the proverbial nice guy who always finishes last—a connection is made, and the ghost decides to help this poor soul. The writing is sharp, with pointed imagery foreshadowing events to come. Dumbfounded when he finds out the ghost is Clutch, “Telly opened and closed his mouth like a hooked trout.” An out-of-work casino IT specialist, Telly has always dreamed of making his living at poker. Despite their dire straits and his girlfriend Gretchen’s pregnancy, she grants him the opportunity before insisting he take a job driving a cab (a secret tidbit of which Clutch is aware). But Telly is an awful player, and even with Clutch’s cheating, he’s too honest and guilt-ridden to pull it off. Meanwhile, the ghost himself has issues with his exes, father, daughter, and his own angel guide. Despite Telly’s reluctance and Clutch’s rather callous and selfish approach to spiritual guidance, Telly eventually makes it to the tournament, where he faces off against the mysterious Ant in front of an audience featuring every whacky character in the book.
Bet on this funny, well-written tale of second chances.
An agent’s newest assignment finds him facing off against a nefarious witch hellbent on world domination in Cash’s (The After House, 2014, etc.) thriller-comedy.
Wes Rockville hasn’t been living up to his law enforcement family’s stellar reputation. When he screws up a prisoner-transport job, cop dad Harris gives Wes one last chance by reassigning him to the Witches Protection Program. Before Wes can utter doubt of witches’ existence, he and new partner Alistair Verne have a case. Witch Junie “Baby Fat” Meadows suspects something sinister is happening at Pendragon Cosmetics. There’s a lot of secrecy surrounding the release of a new face cream, and according to Morgan, the niece of CEO Bernadette Pendragon, the cream’s formula includes a bit of witches’ DNA. Wes, Alistair, and Morgan try to stop Bernadette from using the beauty product to influence others’ thoughts. The spirited novel establishes its rules right away. The program, for example, protects only the Davinas, the good ones, while the Willas are the dark witches who thrive on mayhem. Cash revels in his deliberately old-school approach: witches cook spells in a pot; they ride brooms; and their spells rhyme, like Morgan’s hilarious chant of “No time to waste, give me speed, slide down forty floors on my ass, indeed.” Readers will breeze through this quick read, and the cast adds to the fun: Bernadette is a villain so powerful she can take down a helicopter with ease; Wes may be a skeptic, but he doesn’t waste time discounting the things he sees—especially when it’s a woman transforming into a panther and using his foot as a chew toy. Wes is a fascinating protagonist whose biggest hurdle, it seems, is dyslexia, or what his gruff father flippantly calls “that reading thing.” The short, action-laden novel speeds past any nuances from developing characters’ relationships, but Cash does leave room for a couple of surprises. The story’s case is more or less wrapped up by the end, with a lingering impression that this could be the first of many to come.
Cleverly offbeat, often cheeky, and loads of fun.
Cash’s (Risen: The Battle for Darracia, 2014, etc.) romance novel finds a divorcée tangling with a sea captain’s ghost.
Remy Galway has just moved into a white cottage in Cold Spring Harbor on New York’s Long Island. The yoga instructor is starting over there with her 6-year-old daughter, Olivia, after a bitter separation from her volatile ex-husband, Scott. Their cottage, built during the town’s whaling heyday in the early 1700s, has a detailed mural on one wall, featuring a bearded sea captain named Eli Gaspar. Olivia senses that someone is watching her and her mother, but Remy is initially skeptical. It’s the ghost of crotchety Eli, however, who wants both of them gone—along with their feminine frippery—and he destroys the cottage’s parlor to scare them off. But Remy assumes that Scott is responsible for the destruction. She takes comfort in the soothing presence of Hugh Matthews, a handsome museum curator, who’s there for Remy as her life takes several increasingly dangerous turns (including arson at her yoga studio). As Eli watches Remy and Olivia, two mysterious sentinels, who keep spirits from physically harming the living, are watching him—but the captain seems too angry to appease. Can Remy and Hugh learn enough about Eli’s tragedy to avoid one of their own? Cash delivers another emotionally rich haunted-house tale, filled with tantalizing history and Long Island color. He even addresses the whaling industry, as when Eli asks his wife in a flashback, “Like reading late into the evening? Whale oil is progress, Sarah mine.” The story is also often quite funny; Remy thinks Hugh is too perfect, for example; she “expected bluebirds and butterflies to hover over his head while angels sang.” Hugh is far from flawless, however, as his awkward declaration of love for Remy proves: “[W]hen I saw you, it was like...I don’t know...pow!” The supernatural and romantic elements seesaw back and forth nicely, and the historical scenes enliven both aspects. In the end, when Eli says to a model whale, “I didn’t understand about loss, you poor beast,” he nearly steals the show.
A charming, uplifting paranormal romance.
In Cash’s (Collision, 2014) horror novel, a young couple confronts malicious spirits while renovating a Victorian mansion.
Real estate investors Brad and Julie have flipped a series of homes, with each property netting them enough cash to buy and renovate the next. He loves losing himself in the physical labor, while she handles the paperwork. But their latest purchase, the Bedlam House on Long Island, feels different. As Brad sorts through the mounds of trash in the dilapidated basement, he starts to resent his wife; Julie had insisted they buy the mansion, as she was drawn to its sales potential. The harder Brad works, however, the stranger Bedlam House becomes. One day, he hears an odd rumbling, and when he breaks through a plaster wall, he finds a subbasement filled with crates containing a huge trove of “the stuff of everyday life dating back to who knew when.” Unbeknownst to Brad, two ghosts, Tessa and Gerald, are watching him. Tessa intends to seduce the young husband—something he might not survive. However, Gerald warns her that threatening his life will cause the mysterious creatures known as Sentinels to interfere, which neither ghost wants. This is familiar genre territory, but Cash’s breezy prose and sharply drawn characters shine. For example, he quickly portrays Tessa as a spoiled princess when she tells Gerald, “If [Brad] throws away my fox stole, you are going to have to kill him.” The author executes haunting scenes with a perfect balance of style and substance: “Nails caressed the back of his neck, and he whipped around, rattled, his eyes wild.” The narrative’s pacing and tone, though, are perhaps its most enjoyable aspects. Cash lets readers’ expectations simmer throughout, and he encourages them to cheer for both the ghouls and the greedy couple—and to look forward to whatever horrific climax awaits them. That said, the tidy ending is the only place where Cash’s control works against him; readers will likely crave a much livelier mess.
A deliciously deft horror page-turner.
At breakneck speed, Cash’s (Schism, 2013, etc.)second installment in the Darracia saga blends elements of sci-fi and fantasy as it continues to chronicle the adventures of a small group of heroes desperately attempting to unite a war-torn planet.
Still reeling from his uncle’s brutal attempt to usurp his father’s throne, V’sair—now king of Darracia—is struggling to keep alive his dead father’s dreams of a united planet. But the tensions between the Darracians (muscular humanoids with tails who live in floating cities) and the Quyroos, who live in the forests far below, are rising. To make matters worse, V’sair’s treacherous uncle Staf Nuen, a Darracian, has escaped and is no doubt planning another attack. The novel is essentially two intertwining storylines: One follows V’sair and his love interest, Tulani, a Quyroo high priestess, as they try to reunite the two races while also uncovering a traitor in their ranks; the other follows V’sair’s brother Zayden and his mission to find—and kill—Nuen. While both storylines are well-constructed and compelling, Zayden’s is easily the more entertaining as he tracks Nuen from planet to planet, going from one hair-raising adventure to another. The sequences featuring Zayden and Denita—including his overly possessive and undeniably seductive savior (“I saved you and you belong to me”)—give the story’s serious tone some much-needed levity. In a minor setback, the narrative tends to lose focus on worldbuilding. The series’ first volume was filled with rich descriptions of the various locales on and around Darracia—the thick forest of the Desa, for example—while this novel concentrates much more on action than on setting.
Not exactly profound, but top-notch literary escapism with nonstop action, well-developed characters and jaw-dropping plot twists.
This coming-of-age fantasy novel with a subtle sci-fi backdrop follows a half-breed prince who’s forced to embrace his unique identity when his intolerant uncle—vehemently set against a looming peace accord between antagonistic races—attempts to usurp his father’s throne.
Although 19-year-old Prince V’sair isn’t a full-blooded Darracian, his mixed blood—and keen intellect—makes him the perfect future leader for a planet with a long history of enmity among its inhabitants. The Darracians, a hulking humanoid race with short, muscular tails, have all but enslaved the Quyroos, “the people of the trees.” The Darracians live in a sprawling floating city while the Quyroos labor far below. V’sair’s father is a benevolent, forward-thinking king, and he and his wife are on the brink of finally bringing peace and equality to the planet, and V’sair has a hugely significant role to play in making that happen. His mother has even called him “the new Darracia.” But as the young prince—along with a beautiful Quyroos female named Tulani—roams the forests on an errand for his mother, his uncle attempts a bloody coup; in an instant, the futures of countless innocents hang in the balance. With his entire family quite possibly dead and his uncle now on the throne, V’sair must finally come to grips with his heritage and become the leader he was meant to be. The briskly paced storyline features a cast of well-developed characters, and for the most part, it’s an entertaining read. But hard-core fantasy fans may be left wanting more depth out of the narrative: The histories and cultures of the two races are only briefly explored, and the religious ideology (the Sradda Doctrines) and mythology involving the planet’s elemental deities could’ve used more emphasis as a thematic focus.
Well-written but somewhat predictable; a solid foundation for what could be an excellent series.
A curse brings death and ruin to several generations of a family in Cash’s (Stillwell, 2013, etc.) supernatural novella.
The story opens in present-day Oyster Bay, N.Y., with teenagers Arielle and Chad, two teens enjoying a midsummer night under a large oak tree. Chad wants more from Arielle than she’s willing to give; annoyed with her hesitation, he refuses to give her a ride home, and the two angrily wait to meet Chad’s delinquent friend. However, it turns out that the pair is not alone: Watching them from the spreading oak tree is a cast of ghostly characters whose ill fates are about to intersect with the teenage lovers’. This fast-paced novella, easily read in one sitting, spins a tale of woe dating back to 1649, when a woman wrongly accused of witchcraft curses the reverend who sentenced her to death. As the years roll by, a number of his descendants fall victim to the curse and find themselves inhabitants of the hanging tree. The story’s greatest strengths are its pacing and structure: Each short chapter develops an individual victim’s back story piece by piece, leaving readers in constant, eager anticipation, although some threads are more successful than others. Goody Bennett, the curse’s originator, is the best-developed character, strong and unapologetic as she stands up against prejudice and injustice. Arthur and Martin, who die in a horrific car crash in 1916, are also intriguing figures whose witty banter provides the story with some comic relief. Others, however, such as Muriel, a girl from the 19th century, feel like afterthoughts, while Arielle and Chad, who play a central role in the story’s resolution, lack the necessary depth their pivotal roles demand. Spelling errors (including the repeated misspelling of a key character’s name) also prove distracting in the brief novella format.
A creepy tale with potential that ultimately lacks enough punch.
A novel debut thriller about a modern-day cicada plague.
An average couple faces monsters, mayhem and possibly the end of the world—and, for once, it’s not because of a zombie invasion. Cash takes a wildly different approach to the post-apocalyptic genre, depicting a series of seemingly realistic survival scenarios after a massive hatch of 17-year cicadas causes mayhem in the northeast United States. Such a threat may seem more plausible than the dead rising from their graves, but make no mistake—this thriller is far from entomologically correct. However, once readers suspend their disbelief, this tale provides a welcome respite from more common, formulaic end-of-the world takes. The main plot revolves around Seth and Laura, a generally happy, if stressed, married couple. Seth is currently unemployed, and Laura, who just recently became pregnant, is unhappy with his lack of enthusiasm in looking for work. Readers will easily identify with these archetypal characters, even if they aren’t very particularly well-developed at first; however, the story gains a heightened sense of urgency once the cicadas destroy the couple’s quiet suburban life, ramping up the action. As the local government falls apart and basic necessities become scarce, Seth and Laura must navigate a world gripped by chaos while also dealing with their own marital issues; they also must confront the fact that their unborn child is in imminent danger right along with them. This brief debut novel makes up for its shortcomings with its fresh perspective, breathing new life into a genre that has been occupied too long by the usual suspects: sickness, the undead and global warming.
A story of survival inventive enough to entice fans of the genre.