A polished, cinematic crime tale that’s both edge-of-your-seat thrilling and seamlessly entertaining.

SWIMMING WITH THE ANGELS

A newly married Southern California couple become embroiled in a tangled web of embezzlement and mob money.

After the success of his well-received spiritual/supernatural debut, Soul Catcher (1995), Kersey’s second novel follows landscaper Grayson Reynolds and his wife, Heide, a hedge fund associate. They are struggling through their first year of marriage, wedged within the suffocating grip of household debt. Believing she has the ultimate answer, Heide, together with her boss, hatches a plan to covertly pilfer $100 million, putting it into a Cayman Islands bank. Her secret is violently exposed when the couple, on a yacht with Heide’s boss, are attacked by a gun-toting female assassin who kills everyone onboard except Gray, who narrowly escapes. An FBI interrogation reveals the money Heide diverted belonged to the Sinaloa cartel, a ruthless and viciously cutthroat Mexican crime syndicate that wants its laundered drug money returned, at any cost. Terrified and desperate to escape into obscurity, Gray, in an ultimate act of self-preservation, goes into hiding in the Cascade Mountains north of Seattle at a trout hatchery owned by a kindhearted family. Country life as a farmhand suits Gray well, but Kersey knows how to keep the tension taut as the inevitable end to the protagonist’s self-imposed concealment casts gloom over every move he makes. The blooming romantic affections for Gray from two sisters cause the kinds of complications he doesn’t need as he tries to crack the password to his murdered wife’s Cayman Islands bank account and keep the money for himself. Gray is a reliable narrator, and though the plot is simple, it’s also engrossing. The author keeps his list of characters compact and his plot kinetic and tightly spring-loaded with plenty of surprises to keep readers on their toes. By the time Heide’s past comes back to haunt Gray, readers will be more than ready for the unavoidable rush of mob-fueled revenge to descend on the bucolic farmland. The rousing finale pits Gray against an adversary in a bullet-riddled face-off filled with breathless suspense.

A polished, cinematic crime tale that’s both edge-of-your-seat thrilling and seamlessly entertaining.

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63752-865-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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A bloody and grotesque but ultimately entertaining and inspiring take on horror movies, trauma, and self-determination.

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THE FINAL GIRL SUPPORT GROUP

Serial killer survivors are forced to cooperate when they’re dragged screaming back into jeopardy.

You have to give it to Hendrix, author of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires (2020), for tapping into his deep knowledge of horror films and fiction to find a new angle on the tropes of terror with every outing. In the same way Edgar Cantero lampooned Scooby Doo in Meddling Kids (2017), this scary unraveling aims straight for the sheer terrors the best slasher films create. Here, Hendrix has zeroed in on the so-called “final girl,” the sole survivor of a horrific massacre—you’re already thinking of Jamie Lee Curtis in the Halloween movies or Sigourney Weaver in Alien. This book is even more skin-crawling, as deeply paranoid Lynnette Tarkington (impaled on an antler trophy during her first unfortunate encounter years ago) reluctantly participates in group therapy sessions with Dr. Carol Elliot along with fellow survivors Marilyn Torres, who has buried her emotions in wealth; Dani Shipman, who might have killed the wrong person; Julia Campbell, whose encounter left her in a wheelchair; and Heather DeLuca, who is succumbing to addiction. Hendrix can be tongue-in-cheek (see Horrorstör, 2014) but is deadly serious here while still warping the conventions of the genre, including the fact that some of the survivors have participated in graphic horror flicks depicting their very real traumas. The book is creepy enough on its face, but Hendrix’s use of expedient narrative tools, including a laconic cowboy lawman, an overly eager journalist, and a host of archetypal serial killers, heightens the unease. After one member of this vigilant sisterhood is murdered and a series of oddly prescient attacks threaten the rest, Lynnette becomes increasingly suspicious that the attacks are originating way too close to their inner circle. “Does this ever end?” Lynnette asks. “Will there always be someone out there turning little boys into monsters? Will we always be final girls? Will there always be monsters killing us? How do we stop the snake from eating its own tail?”

A bloody and grotesque but ultimately entertaining and inspiring take on horror movies, trauma, and self-determination.

Pub Date: July 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-20123-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Eerie atmosphere isn’t enough to overcome an unsatisfying plot and sometimes-exasperating protagonist.

THE MAIDENS

A blend of psychological mystery and gothic thriller puts a psychotherapist in pursuit of a serial killer on the campus of Cambridge University.

The author’s second novel features a psychotherapist as its main character, as did his 2019 debut, The Silent Patient (whose main character makes an appearance here). This book’s protagonist is Mariana, who has a busy practice in London specializing in group therapy. At 36, she’s a widow, reeling from the drowning a year before of her beloved husband, Sebastian. She’s galvanized out of her fog by a call from her niece, Zoe, who was raised by Mariana and Sebastian after her parents died. Zoe is now studying at Cambridge, where Mariana and Sebastian met and courted. Zoe has terrible news: Her close friend Tara has been murdered, savagely stabbed and dumped in a wood. Mariana heads for Cambridge and, when the police arrest someone she thinks is innocent, starts her own investigation. She zeroes in on Edward Fosca, a handsome, charismatic classics professor who has a cultlike following of beautiful female students (which included Tara) called the Maidens, a reference to the cult of Eleusis in ancient Greece, whose followers worshipped Demeter and Persephone. Suspicious characters seem to be around every ivy-covered corner of the campus, though—an audacious young man Mariana meets on the train, one of her patients who has turned stalker, a porter at one of the college’s venerable houses, even the surly police inspector. The book gets off to a slow start, front-loaded with backstories and a Cambridge travelogue, but then picks up the pace and piles up the bodies. With its ambience of ritualistic murders, ancient myths, and the venerable college, the story is a gothic thriller despite its contemporary setting. That makes Mariana tough to get on board with—she behaves less like a modern professional woman than a 19th-century gothic heroine, a clueless woman who can be counted on in any situation to make the worst possible choice. And the book’s ending, while surprising, also feels unearned, like a bolt from the blue hurled by some demigod.

Eerie atmosphere isn’t enough to overcome an unsatisfying plot and sometimes-exasperating protagonist.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-30445-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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