Obsession and megalomania, sex and power make for a sophisticated, literate and well-crafted paranormal horror.

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Something wicked this way comes in Nevill’s (The Ritual, 2012, etc.) modern horror tale.

Kyle Freeman is a respected but deep-in-debt London-based documentary filmmaker. Contacted by Max Solomon, a prosperous New-Age publisher, Freeman’s asked to make a film about The Temple of the Last Days, a 1960-1970s hippie-era cult that is an autocratic semireligious lifestyle stew of everything from Scientology to Buddhism, at least until it culminated in mass murder in Arizona. Solomon has prearranged travel and script, and he pressures Freeman to agree immediately. The fact the fee is £100,000 makes quick acquiescence easy. The fact that Solomon himself originated the cult’s predecessor group, The Last Gathering, is kept secret. Solomon meant well, only wanting to “create one small pocket of cooperation and decency.” That lasted until Sister Katherine assumed leadership. Katherine, sociopathic daughter of a down-and-out aristocrat, had spent time in prison for running a brothel. Freeman, along with cameraman Dan, travels to sites of the cult’s activity, from Clarendon Road to Normandy to Arizona and back to London, meeting warped witnesses to the paranormal. At each site, Freeman himself experiences apparitions and manifestations, enough to provoke hallucinogenic nightmares. Only after Freeman visits Antwerp and examines an ancient triptych painted by Niclaes Verhulst does he comprehend that the skeletal demons who have manifested through walls intent on mayhem—demons that he has experienced at each site and at his apartment—can be traced to the Blood Friends, ghosts of followers of an Anabaptist heretic, Konrad Lorche, leader of a 16th-century religious commune. After Lorche declared himself God’s one king and fed a French bishop to a pig, he and his followers were besieged, captured, and burned alive or beheaded—only to linger in some hellish purgatory to await remanifestation. Neville’s writing is deft and believable. Tension abounds, right up to a long, bloody denouement at Sister Katherine’s luxurious California mansion, where the Blood Friends await rejuvenation. 

Obsession and megalomania, sex and power make for a sophisticated, literate and well-crafted paranormal horror.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-01818-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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