UP THE CREEK

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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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

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THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Vintage King: a pleasure for his many fans and not a bad place to start if you’re new to him.

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IF IT BLEEDS

The master of supernatural disaster returns with four horror-laced novellas.

The protagonist of the title story, Holly Gibney, is by King’s own admission one of his most beloved characters, a “quirky walk-on” who quickly found herself at the center of some very unpleasant goings-on in End of Watch, Mr. Mercedes, and The Outsider. The insect-licious proceedings of the last are revisited, most yuckily, while some of King’s favorite conceits turn up: What happens if the dead are never really dead but instead show up generation after generation, occupying different bodies but most certainly exercising their same old mean-spirited voodoo? It won’t please TV journalists to know that the shape-shifting bad guys in that title story just happen to be on-the-ground reporters who turn up at very ugly disasters—and even cause them, albeit many decades apart. Think Jack Torrance in that photo at the end of The Shining, and you’ve got the general idea. “Only a coincidence, Holly thinks, but a chill shivers through her just the same,” King writes, “and once again she thinks of how there may be forces in this world moving people as they will, like men (and women) on a chessboard.” In the careful-what-you-wish-for department, Rat is one of those meta-referential things King enjoys: There are the usual hallucinatory doings, a destiny-altering rodent, and of course a writer protagonist who makes a deal with the devil for success that he thinks will outsmart the fates. No such luck, of course. Perhaps the most troubling story is the first, which may cause iPhone owners to rethink their purchases. King has gone a far piece from the killer clowns and vampires of old, with his monsters and monstrosities taking on far more quotidian forms—which makes them all the scarier.

Vintage King: a pleasure for his many fans and not a bad place to start if you’re new to him.

Pub Date: April 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3797-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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