An unconventional, absorbing legal thriller with elements of fantasy and the supernatural.

ALMOST DAMNED

In this thriller sequel, a criminal defense lawyer’s newest case involves fallen angels and their human/demon offspring.

Virginia attorney Samson Young’s life has gotten more complicated lately. A woman connected to a case he defended and an anonymous call to his office both mention a ski trip that Sam knows nothing about. This ties to his subsequent summons to appear on Mount Hermon at the Israel-Syria border. His apparent clients in a lawsuit are Azazel and the fallen angels, who, having served a sentence of 70 generations in fire, wish to return to heaven. Sam will also make an appeal for these angels’ immortal hybrid children to become full, mortal humans. Meanwhile, he and his law partner, Amelia Griffin, continue working on cases in Bennet County. They defend a man accused of killing his wife who supposedly confessed his crime to a cellmate. Unexpectedly, Sam realizes this client and others are somehow connected to the Mount Hermon trial. Specifics on this case or those named in the summons aren’t easy to come by, as Sam’s questions generate cryptic responses. Still, it’s clear that some don’t want this particular dispute resolved; unknown individuals threaten or attack the attorney and his friends. Sam may also have a personal link to the fallen angels’ lineage. He has a telepathic ability that he uses in moderation, and his somewhat obscure family history features a relative who seems to have survived death. Soon, the protagonist will appear in front of a panel of archangel judges, with reputedly untrustworthy Samael as his opponent.

Leibig’s cross-genre novel, like the preceding installment, is first and foremost a legal thriller. For example, the counselors’ arguments propel the supernatural trial despite the presence of angels and discussions of immortality. This lawsuit teems with familiar courtroom sights, such as the calling and examining of witnesses, attorney objections, and closing statements. In the same vein, the author grounds the fantasy side of the story by often citing religious texts, including the Bible and the book of Enoch. Leibig deftly weaves religious references into the defense of the hybrids (seemingly punished for their fathers’ deeds) and the fallen angels’ backstory. The engrossing novel retains mystery as well. Sam (and readers) may surmise his connection to the angels and the hybrids, but he doesn’t get clarification until later. The author handles this with tongue-in-cheek observations, frequently noting characters’ intentional vagueness: When a member of Sam’s family “did answer, her words were often a response not to the question someone had asked, but rather to the question they should have asked.” Humor also comes in the form of snappy one-liners by Sam or legal investigator Nguyen Jones: “You’re always stitching up their softballs”; “You thought Paulo was fixin’ to trim our hedges.” While Nguyen serves as comic relief, Amelia proves herself a competent lawyer who is just as capable as Sam. The strong cast also includes characters whose dubiousness makes them unnerving, particularly as Sam believes someone is responsible for more than one recent death. There’s resolution by the end and a good chance Sam’s bizarre adventures are far from over.

An unconventional, absorbing legal thriller with elements of fantasy and the supernatural.

Pub Date: April 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64663-295-4

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Koehler Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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