"Renders spirits and the preternatural realm as tangible scenes of action and intensity."– Kirkus Reviews
After spending years in a mental institution, a woman has revenge on her mind in Anderson’s (Claw Hammer, 2016, etc.) dark thriller.
Megan Williams was institutionalized five years ago after she killed one man and castrated three others who raped and disfigured her. She earns her freedom by telling her psychiatrist that she knows right from wrong—just what the doctor wants to hear. However, she still plans to murder the survivors of her last attempt at vengeance, which occurred after she’d spent one year in a coma and another undergoing reconstructive surgery and physical therapy. Shortly after her return to Twin Rivers, Illinois, cops find the body of a castrated man and suspect Megan of the crime. Newspaperman Tim Goodman, however, connects the new murder to five of the dead man’s associates, who are all inexplicably missing. With police watching her, Megan puts her retribution on the back burner. Meanwhile, she’s leery of her older sister Susan’s new beau, Harry Berg. The mob-linked drug dealer hopes to launder money in Twin Rivers, and he’s also in the process of meting out payback to those who’ve wronged him. Soon, the dead bodies are stacking up, and Megan is in danger of arrest. Anderson rivetingly presents his protagonist from a first-person perspective, which clearly shows her instability. As she reveals more details of her attack, it seems as if she’s continually reliving it, which gives the book’s title a sad twist. As a result, readers will initially have sympathy for Megan, but it may subside as the story progresses; at one point, Megan says she that she tortured multiple men, all strangers who picked her up at bars, as practice for her revenge; after butchering them, she says, she “showed them mercy and slit their throats to make certain they died.” Still, the story’s intensity rises with each new murder victim, as each puts Megan or someone she knows in potential danger. Anderson, meanwhile, does add glimmers of hope, as when he shows that Megan regrets at least one of her killings.
A relentlessly gloomy but memorable tale that explores questions of morality.
Anderson (The Devil Made Me Do It Again and Again, 2016, etc.) tells the story of a vicious series of murders in a small Illinois town in this thriller.
Seventeen-year-old Joyce Roberts underwent an unbelievable trauma when she was 6—her father killed her older sister, and the event left both her mind and body scarred. Now an orphan living with her grandparents, she tries to acclimate to life as a normal teenager. She excitedly agrees to attend the senior prom with Tony Virusso, the most popular boy in school. Things go well, and Tony takes Joyce to the cool kids’ after-party. But after the two go off to an empty room with the intention of sleeping together, the night goes off the rails: Tony’s jealous ex-girlfriend bursts into the room, revealing Joyce’s hideous scars to the school’s social elite and causing her to flee into the night. Things get even worse, however, when someone murders the other partygoers, including Tony. The victims are all struck in the head, and the faces of the men bashed in. Det. Sgt. Carl Erickson and Dr. Marsha Wade, the police team assigned to investigate the murders, guess that the assailant is most likely a woman, and the identity of the killer may have something to do with Joyce’s troubled past. Anderson originally published this novel in 1989, but this edition has been revised and updated with more contemporary references; one character, for example, is described as a “Britney Spears lookalike.” Still, the book has the feel of a vintage 1980s pulp novel, which may help distract readers from the plot’s more predictable elements. Overall, it traffics in mostly enjoyable camp, featuring scenes of gore (“Pools of blood ruined the carpet and flecks of blood and brains stained the wallpaper”), sex (“his hands slid up her thighs to probe again at her liquid center”), and dated teen dialogue (“Is she Gary’s steady?”). That said, its tendency to dwell on the size of female characters’ breasts is somewhat off-putting.
A kitschy murder-mystery thriller with a retro feel.
A young woman who survived a brutal rape seeks retribution against her assailants while directing homicidal rage at men in general in Anderson’s (Winds, 2015, etc.) unforgiving thriller.
The four men who raped and mutilated teenager Megan Williams four years ago left her for dead. She pulls through, awakening from a coma and undergoing reconstructive surgery. Cops think the rapists, still at large, had intended to attack Megan’s then-roommate and older sister, Susan. Megan concurs with the vengeance-minded woman secretly living near Susan, convinced the men will, in due course, follow her sister home from Terri’s Restaurant where she waitresses. Megan, however, hates every male she spots eying her or Susan, and anyone who takes Megan home will suffer relentless torture. Columnist Rodney Engleworth, a former investigative journalist, notes similarities between recent murders and Megan’s attack, with male bodies mutilated in ways comparable to Megan. But there have been other rapes/murders with the same modus operandi over the last several years, and sure enough, Megan sees a man at Terri’s who she believes is one of her attackers. Rod, his editor, Timothy Goodman, and Officer Elsie Dorr track down an unidentified woman caught on camera with one of the victims. At the same time, Megan, with a loaded gun, waits for her suspect to contact his three equally guilty friends. The novel is merciless, with the abused main character committing barbaric acts. In Megan’s first-person perspective, she’s seemingly conversing with the men she’s butchering, but that may be only in her head. She apathetically details her rape and explicitly relays what she’s doing to the men, including mutilating genitals. The investigating team can occasionally be too dense: they initially don’t suspect Megan due to her physical condition, though no one’s seen her (not even Susan) for six months. Sympathy comes in the form of Rod, a widower who lost his wife, Helen, to cancer. But he saturates pages with more dourness, at one point equating Helen with an old car that a mechanic (doctor) couldn’t fix. Fortunately, scenes hinting at a romance between Tim and Elsie temporarily relieve the story of its gloomy tone. The ending is appropriately dark but satisfactory.
An unflinching portrait of a victim-turned-predator; sometimes repulsive but unquestionably potent.
In Anderson’s (Light, 2015, etc.) latest thriller, it’s up to a small group of people to stop an evil corporation from disrupting the balance between the spirit and material worlds.
When someone brutally murders Wisconsin tree farmer Ellen Groves, the Pentagon sends Lt. Col. Robert McMichaels to investigate out of suspicions that terrorists are targeting soldiers’ families. He meets up with Maj. Tom Groves and quickly learns that the Groves family, including sisters Diane and Nancy, believe something else entirely is afoot. They claim Ellen was one of the Guardians of the Watchtowers, controlling the flow of energy between the spiritual world and physical world. Meanwhile, Philip Ashur, CEO of XIIMI and master of the Black Arts, is plotting to kill all the Guardians, keeping a body part from each on ice to prevent their spirits from reaching the other side. Anderson’s novel triumphantly merges thriller elements with the supernatural: what seems like a typical murder investigation eventually pits the forces of good and evil against one another. The action scenes dabble in both. Ashur’s men kidnap McMichaels’ children, for example, leading to just one of the numerous gunfights. At the same time, Diane and Nancy, as well as others, like their aunts, are capable of magic. Diane transfers her spirit to a hawk for a particularly vicious attack entailing a bit of eye gouging. The story addresses an abundance of abstract notions, including reincarnation; for instance, Shelia Ryan, an attorney whom Ashur sends to purchase Ellen’s land, may have a change of heart once she remembers her past life from centuries ago in Egypt. Fortunately, the atypical concepts work well amid a genuine threat to the more familiar world: if Ashur succeeds at closing the spirit world, restless spirits in the physical realm will turn “vile, mean, and nasty.” Romantic interests develop perhaps a little too quickly, since they all seem predestined; Diane, who’s short with McMichaels at first, warms up to him immediately when realizing they were lovers in past lives. But Anderson rounds out his story with shocking deaths and a surprising ally for the Groves clan.
Steady pace keeps this novel consistently riveting and often entertaining.
The ghost of a murdered U.S. Army Ranger plans to thwart a plot to assassinate world leaders in Anderson’s (Pinking Shears, 2015, etc.) supernatural thriller.
Maj. Bill Ramsey is dead, but he won’t go into the light until he completes his mission. He’d been in Pakistan to infiltrate a secret base for training American mercenaries. His spirit guide, Vajrapani, a bodhisattva (enlightened being) tells him how to share a body. Ramsey enters the momentarily unprotected (and orgasmically distracted) body of ex-Marine Randy Edwards, who’s already being wooed by the Worldwide Logistical Security Consultants and Transportation Corporation. WLSCTC is gathering former military personnel and plotting “something big,” which Ramsey hopes to stop. Fortunately, he has plenty of people and entities to help, including Vajrapani and intelligence analyst Deb Johnson of the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command. There’s a lot to ponder in Anderson’s novel, which blends abstract notions (like the astral plane) with palpable action sequences, but the author manages not to lose the reader. When Ramsey speaks to Deb, for example, it’s perfectly clear that he’s using Randy’s physical body. In the same vein, many characters are, for various reasons, familiar with bodhisattvas and the spiritual realm, making it easier for readers to accept that Deb and boyfriend Bill Porter can spiritually traverse the astral plane and physically teleport. Reincarnation, too, plays an essential part to the tale and explains why 12-year-old sex slave Anong becomes an efficient ally for the good guys. The story is sometimes a little too conceptual, like the description of spirits who’ve learned “how to manipulate the subtle energies from which was woven the very fabric of the universe.” But Anderson adds rousing elements such as gunfights, the suggestion of a mole inside INSCOM, and surprising connections (i.e., Ramsey knows the man whose body is occupied by Vajrapani). There’s also a bit of suspense; Earl Wright is an unmistakable villain recruiting mercenaries for WLSCTC, but the one(s) actually behind the plan for world domination may be something much more than human—and much worse.
Renders spirits and the preternatural realm as tangible scenes of action and intensity.