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UP THE CREEK

A taut, gripping mystery.

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A New Jersey mother’s and son’s psychic dreams have ties to a murder case in this supernatural thriller.

Caitlin Walker assures her 4-year-old son, Adam, that his recurring nightmares aren’t real. But his latest one seems all too familiar to Caitlin. She had premonitory dreams when younger, though an over-the-counter sleeping pill has kept her dreamless for nearly a decade. One of her childhood dreams involved a young girl’s murder—similar to the nightmare Adam describes. That unsolved homicide took place in Culver Creek, Pennsylvania, 19 years ago. It’s a cold case that new Culver Creek Police Detective Sage Dorian is currently working. He quickly has potential leads, especially as he suspects one of the original investigating officers is hiding something. Also harboring secrets are Caitlin and her husband, Lance; she’s never told him of her psychic dreams, and he has a particular reason for locking their bedroom door each night. Before Caitlin can determine if Adam’s nightmare is the same as hers or about something more recent, her son mysteriously disappears. This apparent kidnapping ultimately shines a light on the spouses’ hidden pasts and may even unmask a killer. This swift, searing murder mystery never wavers. For example, characters’ backstories, including those of Caitlin’s and Lance’s parents, are filled with surprises that have at least some connections to the homicide. Moreover, these backstories enhance character development; Sage is seemingly driven by his sister’s unsolved murder. Grosso chisels her prose to great effect, particularly the descriptions of Caitlin: Lance “knew nothing about her psychic dreams or the freak she used to be. She had always thought it was for the best, but now the unthinkable had happened, and it was all her fault.” Though the final act relies on coincidence, the killer’s unveiling is an engrossing turn, and characters caught in a torrential rain amp up the suspense. The tale culminates in an unforgettable ending.

A taut, gripping mystery. (author’s note, author bio)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949852-20-2

Page Count: 428

Publisher: Glitter Pigeon Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

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HORROR MOVIE

A fever dream about despair and regret that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

When an unreleased cult movie is rebooted, the surviving member of the original film’s crew grapples with psychic whiplash.

Even though it’s not steeped in horror lore like the bangers being cranked out by Stephen Graham Jones or Grady Hendrix, this captivating take is tailor-made for fans of Stephen King and Jordan Peele alike. A cautionary tale with elements of indie movie darlings The Blair Witch Project, Blue Velvet, and River’s Edge, this chronicle of hometown kids trying to make a cheap slasher flick is shockingly memorable and deeply disturbing. Our unnamed narrator is the last survivor of the eponymous movie, filmed in the summer of 1993. Their Horror Movie concerns teens who torture one of their own—the narrator’s role is that of the Thin Kid, akin to the Slender Man of urban legend—and suffer the consequences. In the mix are the film’s obsessive director, Valentina; a handful of cast and crew; and the film’s ethereal screenwriter, Cleo, whose presence is most fully felt within the pages of her unusually personal screenplay. After a bewildering tragedy, the film was never released. Decades later, Valentina uploads a few scenes, some stills, and the screenplay to the internet, inspiring the modern-day reinvention. With his crewmates long dead by mostly natural causes, the narrator reluctantly agrees to capitalize on his infamy, eventually agreeing to participate in a hot horror reboot. Revolving between the original production and the big-budget reimagining, Tremblay deftly sidesteps genre tropes and easy laughs for a truly disturbing experience inside some very troubled heads. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s going to be a great movie,” cautions our Thin Kid. “You’re all going to see it. Most of you are really going to like it.…Will the movie be something you take with you, that stays with you, burrows into and lives in a corner inside you? That, I don’t know.”

A fever dream about despair and regret that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9780063070011

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2024

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LAYLA

A unique story of transcendent love.

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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