An unflinching but introspective tale of what happens after death.


In Spencer’s debut novel, a deceased man’s spirit helps souls escape their expiring bodies.

Williams may be dead but his soul lives on. Another spirit named Henreich, who appears to be a teenage boy, is there to tutor him on his new afterlife profession. Williams and Henreich are Sadeiests—a title that’s a portmanteau of the words sadist and poltergeist. They help trapped souls depart bodies that are on the verge of death; if a soul doesn’t manage to do so before the body’s demise, then it dies, as well. The job can be a harrowing ordeal, as when they aid victims of a vicious serial killer named Sinclair. Henreich quickly grasps that Williams is special when one woman’s soul shows him the life that she lived with her ailing husband—an apparently unprecedented occurrence. In a concurrent story, Death meets 12-year-old John, who can see precisely when and how people will die. He tells the boy, whom he calls “Harbinger,” about the Seven Horsemen of the Apocalypse; Death is one of them, of course, but it’s the other six who wish to battle one another until only two remain, with mortals as “collateral damage.” Spencer’s dense narrative also sublimely addresses abstract notions, such as redemption—each saved soul lessens the Sadeiests’ accumulated sin, which gradually makes them look younger. The novel can be cheeky at times, but it’s more often profound, as Williams develops growing empathy for the dying. The deaths themselves tend to be brutal, however, in part due to Sinclair’s regular appearances. The author’s concise prose ably introduces myriad characters but keeps some of them mysterious. As a result, questions linger at the end, although Spencer may be saving the answers for a planned sequel. Dyer’s crisp, black-and-white line art concludes each chapter—a remnant of the book’s genesis as an unrealized graphic novel. Although the events in the text and illustrations don’t match up, the wordless panels reveal early incarnations of Williams and Henreich.

An unflinching but introspective tale of what happens after death.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 979-8-69-100788-0

Page Count: 327

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2021

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Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

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Horrormeister King follows a boy’s journey from childhood to adolescence among the dead—and their even creepier living counterparts.

Jamie Conklin sees dead people. Not for very long—they fade away after a week or so—but during that time he can talk to them, ask them questions, and compel them to answer truthfully. His uncanny gift at first seems utterly unrelated to his mother Tia’s work as a literary agent, but the links become disturbingly clear when her star client, Regis Thomas, dies shortly after starting work on the newest entry in his bestselling Roanoke Saga, and Tia and her lover, NYPD Detective Liz Dutton, drive Jamie out to Cobblestone Cottage to encourage the late author to dictate an outline of his latest page-turner so that Tia, who’s fallen on hard times, can write it in his name instead of returning his advance and her cut. Now that she’s seen what Jamie can do, Liz takes it on herself to arrange an interview in which Jamie will ask Kenneth Therriault, a serial bomber who’s just killed himself, where he’s stowed his latest explosive device before it can explode posthumously. His post-mortem encounter with Therriault exacts a high price on Jamie, who now finds himself more haunted than ever, though he never gives up on the everyday experiences in which King roots all his nightmares.

Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7890-9649-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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A love letter to fans who will forgive (and even revel in) its excesses and indulgences.


From the Twilight series , Vol. 5

A long-awaited Twilight (2005) companion novel told from vampire Edward’s point of view.

Edward Cullen, a 104-year-old vampire (and eternal 17-year-old), finds his world turned upside down when new girl Bella Swan’s addictive scent drives a primal hunger, launching the classic story of vampire-meets-girl, vampire-wants-to-eat-girl, vampire-falls-in-love-with-girl. Edward’s broody inner monologue allows readers to follow every beat of his falling in love. The glacial pace and already familiar plot points mean that instead of surprise twists, characterization reigns. Meyer doesn’t shy away from making Edward far less sympathetic than Bella’s view of him (and his mind reading confirms that Bella’s view of him isn’t universal). Bella benefits from being seen without the curtain of self-deprecation from the original book, as Edward analyzes her every action for clues to her personality. The deeper, richer characterization of the leads comes at the expense of the secondary cast, who (with a few exceptions) alternate primarily along gender lines, between dimwitted buffoons and jealous mean girls. Once the vampiric threat from James’ storyline kicks off, vampire maneuvering and strategizing show off the interplay of the Cullens’ powers in a fresh way. After the action of the climax starts in earnest, though, it leans more into summary and monologue to get to the well-known ending. Aside from the Quileutes and the occasional background character, the cast defaults to White.

A love letter to fans who will forgive (and even revel in) its excesses and indulgences. (Paranormal romance. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-70704-6

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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