An unflinching but introspective tale of what happens after death.

THE SADEIEST

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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Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

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BOOK OF NIGHT

A former thief who specialized in stealing magical documents is forced back into her old habits in Black's adult debut.

Charlie Hall used to work as a thief, stealing for and from magicians—or rather, “gloamists.” In this world, gloamists are people with magical shadows that are alive, gaining strength from the gloamists' own blood. A gloamist can learn to manipulate the magic of their shadow, doing everything from changing how it looks to using it to steal, possess a person, or even murder. Gloamists hire nonmagical people like Charlie to steal precious and rare magical documents written by their kind throughout history and detailing their research and experiments in shadow magic. Gloamists can use onyx to keep each other from sending shadows to steal these treasures, but onyx won't stop regular humans from old-fashioned breaking and entering. After Charlie’s talent for crime gets her into too much trouble, she swears off her old career and tries to settle down with her sensible boyfriend, Vince—but when she finds a dead man in an alley and notices that even his shadow has been ripped to pieces, she can’t help trying to figure out who he was and why he met such a gruesome end. Before she knows it, Charlie is forced back into a life of lies and danger, using her skills as a thief to find a book that could unleash the full and terrifying power of the shadow world. Black is a veteran fantasy writer, which shows in the opening pages as she neatly and easily guides the reader through the engrossing world of gloamists, magical shadows, and Charlie’s brand of criminality. There's a lot of flipping back and forth between the past and the present, and though both timelines are well plotted and suspenseful, the story leans a touch too hard on the flashbacks. Still, the mystery elements are well executed, as is Charlie’s characterization, and the big twist at the end packs a satisfying punch.

Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81219-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts.

HIDDEN PICTURES

A disturbing household secret has far-reaching consequences in this dark, unusual ghost story.

Mallory Quinn, fresh out of rehab and recovering from a recent tragedy, has taken a job as a nanny for an affluent couple living in the upscale suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey, when a series of strange events start to make her (and her employers) question her own sanity. Teddy, the precocious and shy 5-year-old boy she's charged with watching, seems to be haunted by a ghost who channels his body to draw pictures that are far too complex and well formed for such a young child. At first, these drawings are rather typical: rabbits, hot air balloons, trees. But then the illustrations take a dark turn, showcasing the details of a gruesome murder; the inclusion of the drawings, which start out as stick figures and grow increasingly more disturbing and sophisticated, brings the reader right into the story. With the help of an attractive young gardener and a psychic neighbor and using only the drawings as clues, Mallory must solve the mystery of the house's grizzly past before it's too late. Rekulak does a great job with character development: Mallory, who narrates in the first person, has an engaging voice; the Maxwells' slightly overbearing parenting style and passive-aggressive quips feel very familiar; and Teddy is so three-dimensional that he sometimes feels like a real child.

It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81934-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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